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Wigan 1-2 Fulham Prem05 1213 Daily Telegraph

last updated Monday 24th September 2012, 10:02 AM
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Si Hughes at Daily Telegraph

Wigan (0) 1 Fulham (1) 2

This was an entertaining encounter, marked by a goal for Hugo Rodallega on his return to the club since departing in the summer.

Yet in a league where genuine amusement is not always easy to find, it should be recalled by the melodramatic reaction of one particular arbiter.

When possession fell between two flame-haired midfielders midway through the first half, Lee Probert was awkwardly positioned.

Steve Sidwell, the antagonist, met Ben Watson's challenge with ardour.

But the Wiltshire-based referee was trapped in the centre with nowhere to go.

Sidwell's right boot met shin, probably unprotected by pad. Instantly, Probert crumpled.

While he signalled to the touchline with all manner of gesticulations, the crowd - with a degree of irony - demanded ejection.

After the din, Probert humorously obliged. Still prostrate he self-prescribed a red card for the histrionics.

He was indeed caught; though it was not that bad.

The episode ignited a game that was stagnant.

Dimitar Berbatov was particularly influential, setting up Rodallega's opener with a delicious cross.

The Colombian hung in the air for what seemed an eternity before powering past Ali Al Habsi.

There was no celebration from the forward, a mark of deference for his former club.

The gesture was appreciated the Wigan folk who, on this occasion, were rather more kind towards the actions of one on the pitch, and applauded the touch.

"He [Rodallega] respects the people and they showed him respect too," said Fulham manager Martin Jol, who decided to start with Dimitar Berbatov in a more withdrawn role than the one he filled at Manchester United.

"I always thought he [Berbatov] was a fantastic player.

"The only thing I see now is he can play in a different position as well.

If you play against Wigan in an away game, you take a big gamble to play with two strikers."

After Rodallega's header, Jol's side were fortunate to maintain a lead.

Jordi Gomez careered a side-footed shot off the angle of the woodwork before half-time; Arouna Kone wasted a one-on-one with a heavy touch; then substitute Mauro Boselli missed the easiest of the lot, somehow scooping wide from inside the six-yard box.

With Berbatov in one of his more cunning moods, however, there were always going to be chances.

For Fulham's second, as Wigan's defenders worried about him, they left Damien Duff free and teed up by Bryan Ruiz, the Irishman secured the points.

Although Kone replied for Wigan in injury time, it was too late.

Roberto Martínez insisted that his team did not deserve to lose. "Our possession was a bit pedestrian but we took control of the second half," he said.

Wigan Athletic (3-4-2-1): Al Habsi; Ramis, Caldwell (Miyaichi 77), Figueroa; Boyce (McManaman 77), McCarthy, Watson, Beausejour; Gomez (Boselli 62), Maloney; Kone.
Subs: Pollitt, Jones, Crusat, McArthur.

Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise; Duff, Sidwell, Baird, Kacaniklic (Ruiz 59); Berbatov, Rodallega (Briggs 88).
Subs: Stockdale, Kelly, Kasami, Petric, Karagounis.

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