Wigan Athletic 1-0 West Ham United
A solitary strike from Hugo Rodallega consigned West Ham United to a first away defeat of the season on Saturday.
The Colombian striker scored the only goal of the game just before the hour to dash Hammers hopes at the DW Stadium. Despite the best efforts of the visitors, including a superb effort by debutant Alessandro Diamanti that hit the woodwork late on, the superb travelling fans were to go home disappointed. There was the consolation, though, of Valon Behrami's first appearance since a knee injury back on 1 March.
Having drawn 0-0 at Blackburn Rovers a fortnight ago, Gianfranco Zola had sought extra attacking edge by partnering Carlton Cole with Zavon Hines, fresh from a midweek hat-trick for the reserves against Birmingham City. He made three other changes from the side that drew 0-0 at Blackburn Rovers a fortnight ago.
Danny Gabbidon came in at left-back for Jonathan Spector, who dropped to the bench, while James Tomkins replaced the departed James Collins. Further forward, Radoslav Kovac came into midfield with Luis Jimenez, Kieron Dyer and Jack Collison all unable to take part.
The first real incident of note was a penalty shout when Hines appeared to have been upended by Maynor Figueroa on the edge of the area. The striker had been fed the ball by Radoslav Kovac and showed neat skill to work the opening before contact was made. Despite the protestations from the West Ham bench, referee Alan Wiley waved away the appeals.
It was ten minutes before Wigan finally had a go for goal, with Jordi Gomez finding space to shoot low from the edge of the area but Robert Green produced a fine save to push the ball to safety. That sparked Roberto Martinez's men into life and a minute later Mohamed Diame had a go from distance but it fizzed wide.
Cole was not enjoying as much room at the other end, although he did get a chance to connect on 18 minutes from Mark Noble's chipped pass. As the half-hour approached the contest sparked into life again. Junior Stanislas shot low through a crowd, only for Chris Kirkland to claw the ball out for a corner.
Although Wigan went into this game with nine cautions so far in the league this season, the most of any club, it was West Ham who infringed first. Noble had his name taken by Wiley after an off the ball collision with Diame.
Hines and Stanislas continued to combine well and they did just that on 32 minutes, before the former got another shot on goal. Kirkland was well positioned once again to claim.
Wigan went into half-time on the back of two good chances. On 40 minutes, Rodallega forced Green to tip over with a deflected effort before Gomez called Green into action again with a rasping effort. Cole then had the ball in the back of the net with a clever effort but the referee had already blown for half-time.
The second half began in scrappy fashion with Tomkins having to be alert as Rodallega surged through on goal. The striker finally broke the West Ham resistance on 56 minutes by converting from close range. Green had done brilliantly to parry from Jason Koumas but could do nothing about the follow-up.
West Ham poured forward immediately looking for an equaliser. As the hour came and went, Tomkins twice had free headers from Noble corners but could only nod wide. In between, Parker had produced a superb save from Kirkland after racing on to another Noble corner on the edge of the area.
Zola brought on extra attacking impetus on 63 minutes with Diamanti becoming the 800th player to represent West Ham on his debut replacing Stanislas and Behrami on for Kovac. Diamanti scored twice with free-kicks in midweek for the reserves and nearly did so again on 70 minutes with a 25-yarder that just flew wide.
Wigan by now had brought on Paul Scharner for Koumas and soon replaced Rodallega with Jason Scotland. Parker nearly presented Wigan with a second when he mis-controlled in the 77th minute but Upson saved the day. Diamanti then stepped up with that late curling effort that deserved so much better, holding off his marker before lashing a vicious effort against the far post with Kirkland a spectator.
When Parker just flicked Diamanti's clever cross just wide on 86 minutes, it was to be a case of so near but so far for West Ham United, who will need to regroup for next Saturday's live ESPN visit of Liverpool to east London.