Everton extend unbeaten streak against sorry Wigan
LIVERPOOL, United Kingdom, Dec 26, 2012 (AFP) - Everton extended their unbeaten run to seven matches on Wednesday beating struggling Wigan 2-1 to move into fourth place in the table.
Goals by Leon Osman and fellow England international Phil Jagielka - Wigan's coming from Arouna Kone - sees them occupying the fourth and last Champions League spot after just one defeat in their last 16 Premier League games.
Defeat for Wigan leaves them with just four points from their last nine league games and facing another hard slog to escape relegation.
David Moyes handed veteran Phil Neville a start - making it the 35-year-old former Manchester United and England fullback's 500th Premier League appearance - while former German international midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger earned a rare starting spot.
His Wigan counterpart Roberto Martinez restored captain Gary Caldwell to his starting line-up after the Scottish defender recovered from a hamstring injury, with Franco Di Santo dropping to the bench.
Everton had the better of a dull first-half with Nigerian international striker Victor Anichebe letting go from outside the area in the first minute only to see his shot go over the bar.
His strike partner Nikica Jelavic sent a header wide while Wigan's only chance at goal was a long range freekick by Shaun Maloney which was easily saved by Tim Howard.
The hosts started the second-half in terrific shape, Hitzlsperger unleashing a stunning 30-yard strike, which beat Omani goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi but hit the bar, though, it was only the briefest of respites for the visitors.
Osman struck in the 52nd minute although his goal had a huge element of luck in that his shot struck Caldwell's arm and went in past Al Habsi.
Wigan then went down the other end and thought they had won a penalty after Maloney was brought down by Osman, but referee Lee Mason turned down their appeals and booked Maloney after he grabbed hold of his shirt to protest his decision.
The hosts then looked to have wrapped up the points 13 minutes from time when Neville floated in a super cross and England international Jagielka rose above his marker to head home, helped by the woodwork.
However, Martinez's side reduced the deficit five minutes later when Jagielka failed to clear the ball and Arouna Kone sneaked in to put the ball past Howard.