This game was for all intent purposes a very exciting one. It had goals, penalties and controversial decisions. Yet one thing that was very evident was the two styles of play on offer, both teams play football but in two very different ways. Wigan playing our usual beautiful one touch possession football, while Stoke City playing rough and physical long ball football. Really a game of beauty and the beast.
Now a lot of you may think that I am being unfair on Stoke City, that I am sticking with the media stigma which follow them about. No I am not, Stoke really did just look to hoof it long all day yesterday in an attempt to expose our weakened defense with the absence of Antolin Alcaraz.
The missing player, for me was the key to why this game was not a Wigan win.
We started so brightly getting the ball down, and quite literally playing Stoke City of the park. They couldn't handle the movement of Shaun Maloney and an impressive Arouna Kone. It would be Maloney's presence in the box that would get us of to the start we wanted. The Scottish international finding space broke into the box and laid the ball back to a waiting James McCarthy. The Republic of Ireland international struck the ball, and it struck the hand of Robert Huth.
A penalty was given, a harsh one at that. So up stepped Shaun Maloney who slotted the ball comfortably past Asmir Begovic who went the wrong way. 1-0 to Wigan, and you had a feeling we could march right past Stoke.
However that impending domination never came, we played brilliant; great to watch football. But none seemed to want to shoot or even put the ball in the net.
Arouna Kone was looking the best man on the pitch as his off the ball movement was catching Stoke out. They just couldn't keep up with the Ivorian moving into the gaps between players. Giving him time and space on the ball which he was using well to find players.
Unfortunately nothing was coming from the great build up play, and you had the sense that we were going to live to regret not scoring. That would come later, first we had to deal with the injury of Jean Beausejour who appeared to pull up with a hamstring injury. He was quickly taken off and replaced by David Jones. The same problem had kept him out the side in the past few games.
Stoke of course, being Stoke didn't stop and eventually got their break. A Charlie Adam free-kick was poorly cleared by Gary Caldwell who's header which was to put it bluntly a tap. Letting the ball drop to a Stoke City player who struck the ball. Maynor Figueroa went to close the player down and blocked the ball with is hand, similar to the penalty for Wigan early on.
Jonathon Walters stepped up to take the penalty for Stoke. Second home game in a row Ali Al Habsi faced a penalty, and for the second time in a row Ali Al Habsi guessed the right way, but the penalty kicks power beat him. 1-1 and Wigan had to feel hard done to, more because they hadn't taken the chances when they came to them.
Second half was pretty much a similar story as the first. Wigan starting the brighter of the two, and getting the first goal. This time Stoke won a corner, which was poorly delivered. The ball was smashed clear by the Wigan defense, Arouna Kone was first to it. Springing away from everyone in the Stoke team, and beating the keeper to the ball. You were waiting for him to shoot. Yet Kone kept his cool, and found the run of Franco Di Santo who finished in style.
2-1 and you felt that we had to go at Stoke again and get another.
Yet this is Stoke and what were they going to do. Pace, power and the long ball. We hadn't been able to deal with it all day. Caldwell and Ramis both were unable to clear the balls that were coming their way and when Stoke started to push the emphasis you knew in the end it would tell.
That wouldn't come to 15 minutes to go. In between that, you got what I can only call a proper game of football. Passing and moving from Wigan to keep the ball and to take the sting out of Stoke. While Stoke charged and threw themselves at the Wigan defense.
Chances came and went Walters missing a free header under pressure from Emmerson Boyce, while Boyce would missing a back post chance to score, after great work down the left from Shaun Maloney. Those two chances being the real highlights of a period of great build up play.
Yet Stokes goal came, and it was from a throw in. You felt like Stoke would get back into it, and they did as Walters beat Caldwell to the first ball and flicked the ball into the box. Before Peter Crouch was able to tower over the stranded Figueroa to make it 2-2.
You had to say it was probably about right. as both teams and looked fairly equal and neither deserved to score in the last few minutes as they entertained with an end to end last ten minutes.
Charlie Adams though had the best chance to score, is free kick was deflected massively by Caldwell. Ali had to change his whole body position to get back across the goal to push the ball away from the goal. Meaning the score remain equal as the referee brought the game to a close.