Premier League: Everton 2 Wigan Athletic 1
By Football News
Everton moved up to fourth in the Premier League and sunk Wigan Athletic into further trouble with a 2-1 win at Goodison Park on Boxing Day.
Leon Osman's deflected strike gave the hosts the lead early in the second half before Phil Jagielka's header doubled the advantage.
Wigan had been second best for much of the match but almost launched a comeback as the tireless Arouna Kone struck late on.
Everton and Wigan both made one change apiece from their last outing, with Johnny Heitinga replaced by Thomas Hitzlsperger for the hosts whilst Franco Di Santo made way for Gary Caldwell in the visitors' line-up.
Darron Gibson featured for the Toffees despite his red card against West Ham due to his hearing with the FA being delayed until Thursday.
And the Latics almost rued that fact immediately, as the former Manchester United man crossed for Nikica Jelavic with seconds on the clock only for Victor Anichebe to blast the Croatian's lay-off over the bar.
That chance set the tone for the opening stages, as the hosts dominated and went close again when Sylvain Distin failed to get clean contact on Hitzlsperger's corner, inadvertently deflecting it wide.
The visitors seemed buoyed by their ability to resist that string of attacks but undermined their own chances of carving out a lead with some poor decision making.
Kone and Shaun Maloney worked hard to carry the ball up the pitch but were easily snuffed out due to a lack of support from the midfield.
Despite seeing their grip on the match loosen, Everton still looked the most likely to break the deadlock and went within inches of doing so when Jean Beausejour's excellent block in the box trickled inches wide of the post.
That chance was as near as either side went before the end of the half and a frustrated Everton were dealt a further blow when Gibson was forced off with injury during the break.
However, the Toffees quickly recovered, Hitzlsperger striking the bar with a wonderful left-footed drive from 35 yards out.
David Moyes' side might have felt unfortunate not to take the lead through such a brilliant strike, but were soon handed a sizeable slice of good fortune to make up for it.
Osman ducked inside Beasejour far too easily on the right-hand side of the box before releasing a weak, left-footed effort but the Englishman's strike fooled Al Al-Habsi thanks to a deflection off the hand of Gary Caldwell and landed in the back of the net.
The hosts were understandably buoyed after the goal but missed a chance to double their lead when Jelavic inexplicably dithered on the ball when clean through on goal.
Everton were nearly made to pay for that moments later when Osman appeared to fell Maloney in the box but referee Lee Mason waved away claims and was subsequently proved right by replays.
The game had few real chances from then on and it was perhaps inevitable that the next goal would come from a set piece. Phil Neville provided the cross from substitute Bryan Oviedo's short corner and Jagielka rose highest to nod into the top corner.
Everton's dominance appeared to have led them to believe the game was over after that goal, but they were soon given a reminder that Wigan would not lie down as Kone capitalised on poor communication between Baines and Distin to toe the ball home inside the box.
However, Everton held firm against a late fight-back to move themselves into a Champions League qualification place and heap yet more misery on Wigan.