Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Wigan 4 Newcastle 0

As one Catalan manager takes his leave, another is on the verge of his greatest achievement yet. Pep Guardiola and Roberto Martínez share not just a nationality, but a footballing credo. Pass, move, pass, pass, move. Welcome to tiki-taka, Lancashire-style, and when it works as well as this, it is as thrilling to watch as the real thing.

On a day when the Premier League’s cast decided to depart en masse from the script, this was perhaps the unlikeliest ad lib of all. Wigan’s beautiful, lethal, first-half assault brought a stunning end to Newcastle’s six-game winning run, dealing their chances of Champions League football a grievous blow. In recent weeks, three of the country’s top four have now tasted defeat at the hands and nimble feet of the Latics.

Wigan are not safe yet, but if anything that made this display all the more impressive. Cleaving stubbornly to their ground game despite their circumstances, in which every misplaced pass out of defence could potentially cost the club £90 million, takes more than outstanding technique and fitness. It takes some nerve, and in Martínez they have a manager of rare courage.

“When you’re in the position that we’re in, mentally you need to be very strong,” Martínez said. “Probably, the experience we had in previous years helps. They have been through this situation. That’s been the biggest advantage.”

By contrast, the face of Blackburn manager Steve Kean, watching from the stands, seemed to fall a little further with every goal. His side face Wigan next.

Like Guardiola, Martínez worships at the temple of Johan Cruyff. Johan’s son Jordi is a close friend of Martínez and was his best man, while grandson Jesjua is one of the stars of Wigan’s youth team. But the devotion is most noticeable on the pitch, and Wigan’s malleability and movement was reminiscent of the Oranje during their 1970s pomp. No, honestly. Except this time, the team in orange were the ones doing the befuddled chasing.

Martínez’s unusual 5-2-3 system has foxed a number of teams. Its beauty is in its fluidity: full-backs Jean Beausejour and Emmerson Boyce venturing forward, Victor Moses popping up on either wing or in the centre, as he did for both his goals. “That shape allows us to play at our best,” Martínez said. “In any shape you need to feed your players in a way that can be effective. We’re very flexible, we’re not strict with it. That’s the biggest strength of this group. They’re not afraid to try things. Over the last two years we’ve developed a bit of a tactical understanding. But shapes don’t win games. It’s the players performing.”

With just 12 minutes left, Shaun Maloney spread the ball out to the right, where Boyce was in acres of space. Boyce shook off Davide Santon too easily and crossed to the near post, where Moses rose powerfully to glance a header past Tim Krul. Just two minutes later, Beausejour’s cross from the left was poorly cleared by Fabricio Coloccini. Moses had time for one touch only. His left-footed shot was perfectly placed.

Twice Santon drew free-kicks. Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye wasted them. By then, though, Newcastle were three down. Beausejour, Maloney and Di Santo combined on the left, moving the ball as if performing a training drill. Danny Simpson scarcely knew where to look as Maloney burst clear, opening his shoulders and curling low past Krul.

As half-time approached, Di Santo added an elegant flourish. Maloney and Moses combined on the right, switching the ball inside to Di Santo 25 yards out. Di Santo took a look up, spotted Krul off his line and lifted the ball over him into the top corner. Sublime. And, given the 4-0 half-time scoreline, just a little ridiculous.

Newcastle, with last season’s four-goal comeback against Arsenal fresh in the memory, sought a breakthrough in the second half. Ali al-Habsi beat away Papiss Cissé’s fierce shot after a wonderful diagonal ball from Ben Arfa. Cissé hit the bar with a curler after being released by Jonás Gutiérrez. Next the post took a rattling after Cissé’s header from Ben Arfa’s cross. After scoring 11 goals in his first 10 games in English football, it was not Cissé’s day. Still, the visitors refused to allow heads to drop. As Connor Sammon ran on to Jordi Gomez’s pass and poked the ball past Krul, Coloccini slid in with a heroic goal-line clearance. There were only two minutes left to play and the game was long lost. That’s what captains are for.

“We just didn’t match the intensity of Wigan,” said Pardew, who must now lift his players for a Wednesday fixture at Chelsea. “In the first 30 minutes we just didn’t get a grip of them. But Wigan were brilliant. I’m expecting a reaction. Champions League football is not away from us by any stretch of the imagination.”

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