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Fulham hang on for away draw

last updated Saturday 15th September 2007, 6:08 PM
Clint Dempsey
Clint Dempsey
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Wigan 1-1 Fulham soccernet

Emile Heskey completed his swift return from international redemption to the harsh reality of domestic life as Wigan and Fulham played out a scrappy 1-1 draw at the JJB Stadium.

Heskey limped off with an apparent ankle injury after just nine minutes of a match which saw Jason Koumas' late penalty cancel out Clint Dempsey's opener for the visitors.

It was dreadful luck for Heskey, who had been given a rousing reception from both sets of supporters for his recent England exploits during the warm-up.

But he will have been heartened by the way his side finished the match, with Paul Scharner and Julius Aghahowa both missing chances to steal the points late on.

Wigan had only briefly looked like a side defending a 100% home record against opposition who were yet to glean a single point from their travels this season.

Koumas won a free-kick in a dangerous position on the right and sent his well-judged free-kick into the Fulham box, where Paul Konchesky headed clear.

But Wigan were far too wasteful in possession. Lawrie Sanchez's men had fewer chances but seemed more determined to make them count with Hameur Bouazza particularly impressive.

Bouazza had the visitors' first chance, nipping in between Latics defenders David Cotterill and Melchiot but firing his eventual shot just wide of target.

Antoine Sibierski had the first shot on the target with a low drive from replacement Marcus Bent's cross, which was easily saved by Antti Niemi in the Fulham goal.

Match Stats Wigan Fulham
Goals 1 1
Possession 42% 58%
Goal attempts 14 11
On Target 4 5
Corners 9 4
Off-sides 4 1
Saves 4 6
Fouls 8 10
Yellows 1 0
Reds 0 0
source: Soccernet

Referee Rob Styles infuriated the home fans by awarding a questionable free-kick to the visitors deep in their own half in the 11th minute.

That anger increased seconds later when Dempsey finished off a swift attacking move by wriggling onto the end of a Diomansy Kamara cross in the Wigan box and firing home the opener.

Fulham came close to extending their lead in the 25th minute when captain Carlos Bocanegra got on the end of a Simon Davies corner but could only bounce his header over the crossbar.

Hutchings' men gradually began to take something of a grip on the proceedings, but dreadful final balls ensured Niemi was never seriously tested.

By contrast, Fulham continued to threaten. In the 37th minute Davies unleashed a curling effort which crashed straight into Kirkland's arms.

Kirkland was a busy man after the break, parrying another Davies free-kick and then performing a fine reflex save after Aaron Hughes fired in the rebound.

The goalkeeper saved the Latics again in the 56th minute when Dempsey surged into the home half, playing a neat one-two with Kamara, but seeing his shot blocked by the onrushing keeper.

Wigan responded through Koumas, who turned Chris Baird and drilled a low shot just wide in the 63rd minute, and Sibierski, whose ambitious overhead kick came to nothing.

When Wigan substitute Josip Skoko wriggled into a good position in the box before shooting tamely at Niemi in the 71st minute, it was a move which seemed to sum up the home side's day.

Fortunately for them, a sustained spell of pressure ended with Melchiot being hauled down by Bouazza , allowing Koumas to salvage their unbeaten home record.

And it might have been even better two minutes from time when Emmerson Boyce flung in a cross from the left and Scharner's flicked effort from point-blank range was held on the line by Niemi. Emile Heskey's England recall could prove to have been painfully brief after the striker was whisked to hospital today with a suspected broken fifth metatarsal.

Heskey limped out of Wigan's 1-1 draw with Fulham at the JJB Stadium after just nine minutes and it initially appeared the striker had simply turned his right ankle.

But it is now feared Heskey could have suffered a more serious injury which could lead to more than a month on the sidelines - and rule him out of England's Euro 2008 matches against Estonia and Russia next month.

While Wigan officials privately feared the worst, Wigan boss Chris Hutchings said: 'Emile has gone to hospital to have an X-ray and obviously we will just have to wait and see how bad it is.

'He just came down and rolled his ankle and whether he has also broken anything we don't know. He tried to carry on but it was too painful.

'It is very disappointing for Emile. He didn't want to come off because everyone who knows, Emile knows if he can stay on he will stay on. But we didn't want to do any more damage and think long-term.' Heskey's injury was a major blow for Hutchings who cut an otherwise relieved figure after Jason Koumas rescued a point with a 78th-minute penalty.

Wigan were second best for long periods and Hutchings said: 'We looked a little bit inept but if things don't go your way you have to dig deep and we were fortunate to come away with a point.'

Fulham had taken an 11th-minute lead through Clint Dempsey and ought to have increased their advantage with Chris Kirkland making a series of fine saves just after half-time.

The Latics came closest to keeping their 100% home record intact when Paul Scharner got on the end of Emmerson Boyce's cross but his effort was held on the line by Antti Niemi.

Fulham boss Lawrie Sanchez said: 'I would have thought that was about as comprehensive as you can get without actually winning a match and ultimately we were hanging on.

'Last week Tottenham should have killed us off before we ever got back into the game and we got something we shouldn't have got and plenty of plaudits for it.

'This week we should have killed Wigan off. It was the most one-sided game you are ever likely to see in the Premier League, right up to the last 10 minutes.

'Then a penalty pretty much out of nothing and we were hanging on and Scharner should have scored to win the game. It just shows you should not leave early when we're involved.

'I'm disappointed. I think Chris will be happier. It's difficult when you've played so well away from home, especially when you're a team which doesn't win much on the road.'

Wigan: Kirkland, Melchiot, Granqvist, Bramble, Boyce, Cotterill (Skoko 60), Scharner, Brown, Koumas, Sibierski (Aghahowa 74), Heskey (Bent 9).
Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Hall.

Booked: Skoko.

Goals: Koumas 80 pen.

Fulham: Niemi, Baird, Hughes, Bocanegra, Konchesky, Davies (Murphy 84), Davis, Smertin, Bouazza (Ki-Hyeon 84), Dempsey, Kamara (Healy 67).
Subs Not Used: Keller, Stefanovic.

Goals: Dempsey 11
(Dempsey latched onto a loose ball and puts it left-footed into bottom-left of the goal from centre of the penalty area.

Att: 16,973

Ref: Rob Styles (Hampshire).

Source soccernet
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