Wigan Athletic fell to their ninth league defeat of the season with Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool making hard work of securing all three points at an Anfield ground that were remembering the 50th anniversary of the legendary Bill Shankly taking over as manager of the club.
Liverpool got off to a dream start after 8 minutes when young French forward David Ngog beat an outcoming Chris Kirkland to a Fabio Aurelio cross to head home his fourth league goal of the season.
Fernando Torres, making his 100th appearance in a Liverpool shirt, came off the bench to score what proved to be the match winner after rounding Kirkland to pave his way to goal and then got the better of a back tracking Titus Bramble before prodding the ball home.
Charles N’Zogbia cut inside and beat three defenders before drilling home a low shot from just outside of the box deep into stoppage time to set up a tense finale and had Jason Scotland’s effort that cracked the bar minutes before Torres added Liverpool’s second been a few inches lower the evening’s outcome could have been considerably different.
Hendry Thomas returned to the heart of midfield alongside Mohamed Diame after sitting out the draw at Stoke through suspension and Hugo Rodallega continued in the lone striker role with Jason Scotland once again making do with a seat on the bench.
Wigan were put under pressure from the outset with Daniel Agger trying his luck from over 20 yards out in the fourth minute and then Fabio Aurelio wasted a chance in front of goal before former Liverpool keeper Kirkland’s poor judgement allowed Ngog to glance his header into the back of the net.
Paul Scharner had a great opportunity to level matters but his header from Charles N’Zogbia’s cross landed comfortably in the arms of Pepe Reina.
Kirkland then redeemed himself when his brilliant reaction save denied Dirk Kuyt after Ngog had set up the Dutch international.
Wigan settled more into the game and appeared content with soaking up anything that Liverpool had to offer and the next real chance of note that presented itself to the home side came as the first half came to a close – Ngog sending his shot inches wide of the upright.
Following the interval in which a host of former players and managers were paraded on the pitch N’Zogbia tested Reina who initially spilled the French midfielder’s effort but was able to gather at the second time of asking.
At the other end of the park Kirkland pulled of another superb save to thwart Kuyt, tipping over the bar from his snap shot.
However the game was to be turned on its head with the second of two Liverpool substitutions around the hour mark and the highly anticipated introduction of Fernando Torres as replacement for Ngog.
Latics were inches away from levelling in the 74th minute when Jason Scotland latched onto a loose ball in the area but his thunderous volley rattled the bar from 12 yards out – the Trinidad and Tobago international still desperately looking for his first Premier League goal.
Wigan were beginning to stamp their authority but couldn’t capitalise and were made to pay in the 79th minute when Torres latched onto an Emmerson back header after Jamie Carragher had hoofed the ball forward.
The Spaniard raced clear with Bramble in hot pursuit and then rounded Kirkland ten yards from goal but appeared to have gone too far with his angle on goal acute to say the least. But this is Fernando Torres we are speaking about here.
He managed to slide the ball at goal only to find the back of Bramble’s heel giving him another crack which he sent home with Gerrard arriving on the line to assist.
N’Zogbia’s third goal of the current campaign set up a nervous end to the proceedings for Benitez and his charges but it proved mere consolation for Wigan who returned home down the East Lancs empty handed once again.
Latics now turn their attention to Monday night and the visit to the DW Stadium of neighbours Bolton Wanderers.