Ali Al Habsi was in outstanding form for Wigan as the on loan keeper kept another clean sheet with a string of top drawer saves to earn Roberto Martinez’ side a point at Everton.

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE – Goodison Park – Saturday December 11th 2010

I would imagine that when the transfer window is flung open at the start of next month that Robert Martinez’ first piece of business will be to tie up a permanent deal for on loan goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi and this performance will have gone a very, very, long way in convincing the Wigan manager to do just that.

The Oman international shot stopper was sublime between the posts for Wigan at Goodison Park. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for him Latics could have well lost this encounter by 3 or 4 goals at least.

Wigan welcomed back Hugo Rodallega following his three game suspension and the Colombian took his place in the starting line up as the lone striker in Martinez’ now highly predictable 4-5-1 formation with Mauro Boselli returning to the bench in the only change to the side that began against Stoke the last time out.

The home side were first out of the blocks and created a number of chances in the opening exchanges with Cahill, Saha, Coleman and Fellaini all wasting opportunities in the opening five minutes of the game.

Wigan’s first real foray into the Everton half came with six minutes on the clock and saw Cahill become the afternoon’s first recipient of a yellow card from young referee Michael Oliver after the Austrialian cynically stopped N’Zogbia in his tracks as the Wigan winger worked his magic.

N’Zogbia was beginning to worry the Everton defence with the French winger running at them at every opportunity and one such move almost paid dividends when his cross was met by Rodallega but his header flew narrowily wide of Tim Howard’s post.

Moments later at the other end of the field and it was Fellaini’s turn to miss the mark. The big Belgian heading over the bar when it looked nailed on that he would have at least tested Al Habsi.

The game continued to be played at a high tempo with David Moyes’ charges creating the best of the chances but neither side could find that killer touch to put themselves in the driving seat.

Steven Pienaar joined his team mate in the book just before the half hour mark for a foul on Cleverley as the game turned a bit scrappy.

Two minutes later Pienaar found himself on the receiving end of an unlawful challenge for which Thomas is eventually booked once the ball went out of play.

Tom Cleverley was replaced by Ronnie Stam for the start of the second half and one can only assume that the reason behind that decision was that the on loan Manchester United youngster had picked up a knock as he had been one of the more effective players of the first 45 minutes.

Everton came out all guns blazing but Seamus Coleman could probably have done better with his effort early on.

Pienaar then called Al Habsi into action with a 25 yard pile driver the Wigan keeper at his best to acrobatically deny the South African.

Wigan were now defending in numbers as the home side continuing to press for the advantage and Al Habsi again did well to keep Jagielka out in the 50th minute with a flick on from a Baines centre.

Cahill then fired wide after combining well with Coleman and Saha as Wigan continued to be stretched at the back.

Latics responded briefly with Gohouri’s cross forcing Howard to punch clear as they tried to catch their hosts on the break.

However, they were very fortunate not to have found themselves a goal down moments later with Saha planting a shot straight at Al Habsi before Cahill left him rooted to the spot with a trademark header but luckily for the Wigan keeper it clipped the foot of the far post and away to safety.

Wigan’s second and final substition of the game saw James McArthur replace Hendry Thomas in the middle of midfield in the 64th minute.

Moments later Everton substitute Jermaine Beckford, a replacement for Louis Saha on the hour mark, looked to run on to a long punt upfield but was adjudged to be offside.

David Moyes then made what turned to be his final throw of the dice for the afternoon with Steven Pienaar leaving the field and Victor Amichebe joining the fray to booing from a section of the home support.

Alcaraz’ challenge on Beckford earned Everton a free kick midway inside the Wigan half and the ball is eventually pumped forward deep into the danger zone, eventually finding Fellaini.

The afro wearing midfielder is picked out at the far post and looked certain to score but his header is well save at close range by Al Habsi.

Everton then found the back of the net through Beckford but he was caught offside by a country mile but that didn’t prevent the former Leeds United striker from sliding the ball into the back of the Wigan goal well after the whistle.

Jagielka then did well to deny Diame at the opposite end before play resumed around the Wigan half and another save from Al Habsi who this time kept out Beckford, who would have loved to have belatedly marked his birthday on Thursday with a second goal in as many games.

Wigan were defending well but as the game neared time added on found themselves facing a free kick after Figueroa was booked for bringing down Coleman by the touchline.

Everton threw everything forward as a goal would surely have settled the tie. However the resultant free kick was eventually cleared and saw Wigan race up the field.

N’Zogbia, Rodallega, Watson and Stam all charged forward with the home side shy in numbers at the back.

Watson slipped the ball to his right to find Stam in space but the Dutchman’s shot was somehow turned around the post by a superb reflex save from Howard.

The game ended goalless with Everton thanking Tim Howard for keeping them in the game at the death but Wigan can look at Al Habsi for another sterling performance – his seventh clean sheet of the current campaing, his fifth in the Premier League.

Whether or not the 28-year-old will be allowed to leave local rivals Bolton Wanderers in January remains to be seen but I doubt very much that any deal would not be done until after the two sides meet at the Reebok Stadium on January 5th.

Next up are Aston Villa at the DW Stadium and hopefully a win to help celebrate Christmas with and fingers crossed also lift Wigan out of the bottom three.

Cockney Latic Man of the Match: Ali Al Habsi
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)
Attendance: 32,853
24 Tim Howard 26 Ali Al Habsi
18 Phil Neville 2 Steve Gohouri
6 Phil Jagielka 13 Steven Caldwell
15 Sylvain Distin 3 Antolin Alcaraz
3 Leighton Baines 31 Maynor Figueroa
23 Seamus Coleman 6 Hendry Thomas
25 Marouane Fellaini 21 Mohamed Diame
26 Jack Rodwell 10 Charles N’Zogbia
20 Steven Pienaar 8 Ben Watson
17 Tim Cahill 15 Tom Cleverley
8 Louis Saha 20 Hugo Rodallega
1 Jan Mucha 12 Mike Pollitt
7 Diniya Billyale 5 Gary Caldwell
16 Jermaine Beckford 9 Mauro Boselli
21 Leon Osman 14 Jordi Gomez
22 Yakubu Alyegbeni 16 James McArthur
29 Victor Anichebe 23 Ronnie Stam
24 Shane Duffy 38 Callum McManaman
7′ Yellow Card Phil Neville    
27′ Yellow Card Steven Pienaar    
31′     Yellow Card Hendry Thomas
46′     Player Off Tom Cleverley
Player On Ronnie Stam
60′ Player Off Louis Saha
Player On Jermaine Beckford
64′     Player Off Hendry Thomas
Player On James McArthur
66′ Player Off Steven Pienaar
Player On Victor Anichebe
80′     Yellow Card Steve Gohouri
90′     Yellow Card Maynor Figueroa
90′     Yellow Card Charles N’Zogbia