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Shaun Maloney salvaged a point for Wigan Athletic with a 90th-minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw against Southampton at the DW Stadium.
It looked like it would be a very good day for the Latics when Gary Caldwell headed them into the lead in the 25th minute but Southampton were a constant threat and it was no surprise when Rickie Lambert levelled 64 minutes in. The visitors then thought they had won it as Morgan Schneiderlin finished off a break five minutes from time but there was a sting in the tail as Maloney prodded in from a corner.
Paul Scharner, who was hugely popular during a four-and-a-half-year spell with the Latics from 2006 to 2010, slotted straight into defence after returning to the DW Stadium on loan from Hamburg.
The Austrian was the club’s all-time leading Premier League scorer until being overtaken by Hugo Rodallega but it was Scharner’s centre-back partner Caldwell who made the breakthrough in the 25th minute. The game had been a midfield battle between two of the league’s passing sides until Wigan created the first chance 13 minutes in. Jean Beausejour swung over a great cross from the left and Franco Di Santo did well to get his toe to it and stab the ball towards the far post but Artur Boruc was equal to it.
Three minutes later Southampton could have scored as Lambert picked out Gaston Ramirez in space 10 yards out, but the Uruguayan shot the ball well over the bar.
The next opening produced a goal, with Beausejour again the architect. The Chilean’s corner picked out the head of Caldwell, who, having engineered space, placed his header perfectly into the bottom corner. Southampton almost levelled straightaway in bizarre fashion when James McCarthy took too long over a clearance and smashed it against Schneiderlin. The ball spun towards the top corner off the Southampton midfielder but Ali Al Habsi managed to claw it away just in time.
The scoreline was harsh on Saints and they dominated the final stages of the first half but were unable to find an equaliser. They came close twice, first Jos Hooiveld heading just wide before Jay Rodriguez’s header was cleared by Caldwell at the far post.
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino made a change at the break, Steven Davis replacing Ramirez, who had picked up an injury at the end of the first half in a clash with Roger Espinoza. The visitors continued to do most of the pressing and with a little over half an hour to go Wigan manager Roberto Martinez opted for a defensive reshuffle.
Jordi Gomez replaced Ronnie Stam, meaning Beausejour dropped back into defence, Maynor Figueroa moved into the centre and Scharner to right-back. They continued to live dangerously, though, and Saints could have scored had Schneiderlin managed to connect properly with a cross from Lambert, who was proving a real handful for Wigan.
In the 60th minute, Adam Lallana entered the fray for Saints as he continued to work his way back from a knee injury and four minutes later they had their equaliser. Jack Cork crossed and Rodriguez outjumped the Wigan defence to head on for Lambert, who bravely beat Al Habsi to the ball at the back post.
Southampton sensed a vital win was there for the taking and they were inches away from going ahead in the 71st minute as Lallana pounced on a half-blocked effort and smacked his shot against the near post.
Wigan finally quelled the siege on Al Habsi’s goal but Southampton were not to be denied and, from a Latics corner, Rodriguez burst away down the left, beat a lunging challenge from substitute Callum McManaman and crossed for Schneiderlin to smash home.
Wigan refused to be beaten and with the match entering the 90th minute Scharner got his head to a corner and Maloney scuffed the ball over the line.
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez: "You have to be [relieved] because Southampton got a very good momentum in the second half and when they get the second goal that late in the game it's going to be very difficult not to be affected by dropping points that you felt you had.
"I was very pleased with the reaction we had, the character and the desire to want to get a positive result, so in that respect I'm very pleased, even though I don't think we performed in the manner we want to or with the fluency we normally have.
"Scoring the first goal should give you a confident feeling but you could feel the crowd was getting very anxious and all of a sudden it became an exercise of something to lose rather than something to gain. We wanted the game to end then, and the way we finished the first half reflected that.
"Southampton pressed us really well, I think they're a very well-drilled team and they deserve huge credit but obviously from our point of view we need to understand that getting a goal lead should be something we can use in our favour. But we never accepted defeat and I think we got a very positive result. We managed to rescue a point and that could be very important at the end of the season."
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino: “There are two different feelings. First because we played well, and secondly, because we could and should have won the game, so we are disappointed with the result. I am happy with the performance of the team, and although I am disappointed with the result, we played well today, so I am happy with that.”
“You can never count on winning. You always have to wait until the end of the match and that is the same in football all of the time, you can't rest on your laurels, you have to play until the end. Today I am sad for the players who have played very well and made a great effort, but unfortunately we haven't come away with the result. I am also very pleased with the supporters who have given us great support here today.”
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