My Soccer World

Football: Liverpool’s Title Challenge Stalled At Wigan

Posted on: January 29, 2009

LONDON: Liverpool’s bid for a first English title since 1990 suffered a fresh setback on Wednesday as Rafael Benitez’s side were held to a 1-1 draw at Wigan.

A late penalty equaliser from Egyptian striker Mido earned Wigan a deserved point and enabled Chelsea, 2-0 winners over Middlesbrough, to reclaim second place from Liverpool, courtesy of their superior goal difference.

Both clubs however will be acutely aware that the title is now Manchester United’s to lose with the champions two points clear of both their nearest rivals with a game in hand.

Arsenal’s chances of a return to the Champions League next season suffered another blow as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Everton.

It could have been worse for the Gunners but for Robin van Persie’s stoppage time equaliser, which cancelled out Tim Cahill’s opener for Everton.

The draw nevertheless left Arsenal five points adrift of Aston Villa, the side currently occupying the fourth and final qualifying spot for Europe’s elite competition.

Liverpool left unsettled forward Robbie Keane on the bench until the closing minutes but Yossi Benayoun was restored to the starting line-up and the Israeli midfielder rewarded Benitez by firing his side into the lead, four minutes before the interval.

Latching on to Javier Mascherano’s defence-splitting pass, Benayoun went round Wigan keeper Mike Pollitt and found the net from an acute angle.

Wigan dominated after the break but Liverpool looked like they would hold out before Jason Koumas went down under a challenge from Lucas Leiva, nine minutes from time.

Mido, signed on loan from Middlesbrough until the end of the season, stepped up and smashed the spot-kick past Jose Reina to get Wigan back on to level terms.

Having laboured without success for the opening half, Chelsea threw Didier Drogba into the fray at the interval.

It was however Salomon Kalou who broke the deadlock by volleying home just before the interval and the Ivory Coast forward made the points safe for Chelsea with a second goal nine minutes from time.

Everton looked set to claim all three points in their clash with Arsenal when Cahill got on the end of a Leighton Baines cross to fire them into the lead 15 minutes into the second half.

The Australian hobbled off shortly afterwards and the night ended on a sour note for David Moyes’s side as van Persie produced a superb strike to equalise right at the end.

Blackburn came from two goals down to rescue a point against local rivals Bolton with Benni McCarthy making amends for a missed penalty by notching the equaliser.

Matt Taylor slid in to convert a cross from Ariza Makukula, on loan from Benfica, after 15 minutes and Bolton doubled their lead ten minutes before the break through Kevin Davies.

Blackburn were given hope however when Stephen Warnock pulled a goal back in the 66th-minute and McCarthy ultimately rescued a point despite having a penalty saved by Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Brazilian forward Robinho put off-field worries to one side to set up Shaun Wright-Phillips for Manchester City’s opening goal in a 2-1 win over Newcastle.

Questioned by police on Tuesday over an alleged sexual assault, Robinho was named in the starting line-up and rewarded the faith of manager Mark Hughes with the pass that cued up Wright-Phillips to score after 17 minutes.

Newcastle’s cause was not helped by the loss of Michael Owen, who limped off midway through the first half, and Craig Bellamy, making his debut for City against one of his former clubs, made sure of the three points with a left-foot drive 13 minutes from time.

Andy Carroll pulled a goal back for Newcastle but they never looked like salvaging a point.

West Ham extended their unbeaten run to seven matches by beating Hull 2-0 with goals either side of half-time from David Di Michele and Carlton Cole.

Results:

Blackburn 2 Bolton 2

Chelsea 2 Middlesbrough 0

Everton 1 Arsenal 1

Manchester City 2 Newcastle 1

West Ham 2 Hull 0

Wigan 1 Liverpool 1

– AFP/de

Channel News Asia

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