Premier League: Wigan 2 Aston Villa 2
By Football News
Wigan's eight-year stay in the Premier League ended with an entertaining 2-2 home draw against Aston Villa.
Darren Bent gave the visitors an early lead before an Emmerson Boyce header and Nathan Baker's own goal handed Wigan the advantage at half-time.
But a fantastic volley from Ron Vlaar ensured both sides came away from the game with a share of the points.
Wigan made three changes from the side that lost to Arsenal on Tuesday. Ali Al Habsi replaced Joel Robles in goal, while Ben Watson and Roman Golobart came in for the injured duo of Antolin Alcaraz and Callum McManaman.
For Villa, Bent came in for the suspended Christian Benteke and Matthew Lowton replaced Eric Lichaj in defence.
Al Habsi parried an early Joe Bennett free-kick before Bent opened the scoring for Villa in the fifth minute.
Gabriel Agbonlahor drove forward from midfield and released the striker, who cut back inside on his right foot and slid a low effort beyond Al Habsi which deflected in off the base of the left-hand upright.
Wigan recovered from the early setback and equalised after 20 minutes. The ball was worked out to Roger Espinoza on the left-hand side and his excellent cross was strongly met by Boyce, who climbed above Bennett and headed beyond Brad Guzan.
Shaun Maloney went close for Wigan shortly before half-time but his free-kick from just outside the box was well held by Guzan diving to his right.
Al Habsi then had to be alert to tip away Agbonlahor's teasing cross as Bent looked ready to pounce inside the six-yard box.
Wigan took the lead in fortunate fashion in first-half stoppage time. A Maloney corner from the left caused all manner of problems for the Villa defence and Ashley Westwood's clearance from Watson's effort rebounded off Baker's foot and into the net.
Watson saw a low shot from distance comfortably held by Guzan early in the second half before the Villa goalkeeper had to rush from his line to thwart James McCarthy following a poor defensive header from Vlaar.
Boyce then wasted two opportunities to score his second of the game and extend Wigan's lead. His weak header from Espinoza's cross was blocked by Bennett and Boyce could only fire the rebound off the top of Guzan's crossbar and behind to safety.
Wigan were made to pay soon after as Vlaar found the net with a strike of real quality. The central defender brought down Bennett's floated free-kick before swivelling and volleying beyond the helpless Al Habsi from the edge of the area.
Agbonlahor almost put Villa ahead two minutes later but his curling effort was just too high following a swift counter attack from Guzan's long throw.
James McArthur almost handed Wigan the lead with 10 minutes remaining but his controlled volley from Espinoza's lofted pass cannoned back off the crossbar and away to safety, while Golobart's delicate chip in stoppage time was just too high.
Villa, who for so long flirted with relegation themselves, finish 15th, five points clear of 18th-placed Wigan.