Sunderland piled more misery on Wigan as a first-half Steven Fletcher double helped them to a 3-2 Premier League win at the DW Stadium.
Wigan actually started the brighter and went ahead early in the first half thanks to a clumsy own goal from David Vaughan following Ronnie Stam’s initial shot. But that was as good as it got for Wigan in the opening half as Sunderland began to dominate in terms of possession and chances. Craig Gardner pulled a goal back from the spot thanks to a needless hand ball from James McCarthy and Fletcher added two more well taken goals to put Sunderland in control.
Wigan dominated the second half for long periods and pulled a goal back from Manchester United loan signing Angelo Henriquez. But despite dominating the second half possession, Wigan were unable to pull another back and Sunderland held on for victory.
Defeat for Wigan leaves them in a precarious position one place above the drop zone level on points with Aston Villa although the Birmingham side have a game in hand to send The Latics into the drop zone.
Wigan were the faster team out of the traps. Sunderland afforded Jean Beausejour too much space with barely five minutes on the clock and his whipped cross led to the opener as the ball fell to Stam. His shot looked to be covered by Simon Mignolet but Vaughan stuck out a leg and helped it past the keeper.
Moments after the restart and the visitors should have been level. Fletcher flicked on Seb Larsson’s free kick and new signing Alfred N’Diaye somehow headed over the bar from a yard out when it was easier to score. Still Sunderland continued to press and they had their reward on 16 minutes thanks to a needless hand ball from McCarthy in the box from Larsson’s free kick. Gardner calmly stepped up to send Ali Al Habsi the wrong way and level the scores.
Wigan barely had time to regroup before they were behind. N’Diaye found space on the left wing and his cross found Fletcher on the far post. Al Habsi kept out the striker’s initial header but it fell straight back into his path and he slammed the volley home.
The Wigan defence at sixes and sevens, Vaughan squandered a good chance to put the Black cats further ahead before Fletcher again pounced to rifle his tenth goal of the season past Al Habsi and into the top corner from Adam Johnson’s lay off.
If Sunderland had the better of the first half, Wigan totally dominated the second from the outset. Shaun Maloney thought he’d pulled a goal back within minutes of the re-start before Mignolet pulled off a fantastic one handed save at full stretch to palm his shot away from the corner.
Franco Di Santo had appeals for a penalty waved away when his shot appeared to hit Larsson’s arm before Maloney curled a shot inches wide of the top corner. With Sunderland sitting back and inviting pressure, more chances came for Wigan. Jordi Gomez whipped in a free kick that deflected off Fletcher and off the top of the bar and Maloney flashed a free kick agonisingly wide.
Wigan were always vulnerable to the counter attack and when Fletcher played in Sessegnon, the midfielder should have put the game to bed. But having turned Caldwell he dallied too long and allowed Al Habsi to make the save.
It was no surprise when Wigan did finally pull a goal back, substitute Henriquez rising unchallenged at the far post to head home the excellent Maloney’s cross. Their tails up, the home side pressed for the equaliser and they had their chances. Maynor Figueroa let fly from distance and was inches wide. And Roger Espinosa was denied late on thanks to a fantastic clearing header from Jack Colback at the back post.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Steven Fletcher – Sunderland. Scored his tenth goal of the season and his sixth in seven against Wigan. Ultimately proved the difference between the two sides.
Wigan: Al Habsi 6, McCarthy 7, Caldwell 6, Di Santo 5, Maloney 7, Gomez 6, McArthur 6, Boyce 6, Beausejour 7, Stam 6, Figueroa 6... Subs: Henriquez 7, Espinoza 6, Boselli 6.
Sunderland: Mignolet 7, Gardner 6, O'Shea 6, Bramble 6, Colback 7, Larsson 7, Vaughan 5, N'Diaye 7, Johnson 6, Sessegnon 6, Fletcher 8... Subs: Bardsley 6, McClean 6.