LIVERPOOL -- Everton moved up to fourth in the Premier League and sunk Wigan into even more trouble with a 2-1 win at Goodison Park on Boxing Day. Follow GOAL.COM on Twitter
Leon Osman's deflected strike gave the home side the lead early in the second half before Phil Jagielka's header doubled the advantage for a dominant Toffees. Wigan had been second best for much of the match but almost launched a comeback as the tireless Arouna Kone struck late on.
Everton and Wigan both made one change apiece from their last outing, with Johnny Heitinga replaced by Thomas Hitzlsperger for the home side while Franco Di Santo made way for Gary Caldwell in the visitors’ lineup. Darron Gibson featured for the Toffees despite his red card against West Ham due to his hearing with the FA being delayed until Thursday.
The Latics almost rued that fact immediately, as the former Manchester United man crossed for Nikica Jelavic with seconds on the clock only for Victor Anichebe to blast the Croatian’s layoff over the bar.
That chance set the tone for the opening stages, as Everton dominated and went close again when Sylvain Distin failed to get clean contact on Hitzlsperger’s corner, inadvertently deflecting it wide.
Wigan seemed buoyed by its ability to resist that string of attacks but undermined its own chances of carving out a lead with some poor decision making. Arouna Kone and Shaun Maloney worked hard to carry the ball up the pitch but were easily snuffed out due to a lack of support from the midfield.
Despite seeing its grip on the match loosen, Everton still looked the most likely to break the deadlock and went within inches of doing so when Jean Beausejour’s excellent block in the box trickled inches wide of the post.
That chance was as near as either side went before the end of the half and a frustrated Everton was dealt a blow when Gibson was forced off with injury during the break. However, the Toffees quickly recovered, with Hitzlsperger striking the bar with a wonderful left-footed drive from 35 yards out.
David Moyes’ side might have felt unfortunate not to take the lead through such a brilliant strike, but was soon handed a sizable slice of good fortune to make up for it. Osman ducked inside Beasejour far too easily on the right side of the box before releasing a weak, left-footed effort but the Englishman’s strike fooled Al Al-Habsi thanks to a deflection off the hand of Gary Caldwell and landed in the back of the net.
The home side was understandably buoyed after the goal but missed a chance to double the lead when Nikica Jelavic inexplicably dithered on the ball when clean through on goal. Everton was nearly made to pay for that moments later when Osman appeared to fell Maloney in the box but referee Lee Mason waved away claims and was subsequently proven right by replays.
The game had few real chances from then on and it was perhaps inevitable that the next goal would come from a set piece. Phil Neville provided the cross from substitute Bryan Oviedo's short corner and Jagielka rose highest to nod into the top corner.
The Toffees’ dominance appeared to have led them to believe the game was over after that goal, but they were soon given a reminder that Wigan would not lie down as Kone capitalized on poor communication between Baines and Distin to toe the ball home inside the box.
However, Everton held firm against a late fightback to move itself into a Champions League qualification place and heap yet more misery on Wigan.
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