World-class opener the key, admits Martinez

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Craig Gardner’s goal last night was hailed as “world class” by Wigan manager Roberto Martinez, who also picked it out as the turning point of the match.

The Brummie’s long-range free-kick in first-half stoppage-time at the DW Stadium gave Sunderland a lead that was tough on a home team which had seen more of the ball and had the better chances on goal before the break.

And the Wigan boss felt that the moment Gardner’s rocket found the back of Ali Al Habsi’s net, his team had a mountain to climb.

“The first goal was always going to be vital,” he sighed after Wigan’s 4-1 defeat.

“Sunderland had an outstanding result against Man City and we knew, because of that, we would be facing a team with great confidence and great belief.

“But we also knew they were always likely to sit deep and defend in numbers, so it was always going to be a case of ‘could we break them down?’

“We created enough chances to open them up and score that first goal and I was pleased with how patient we were in the first half.

“We took our time and opened them up a few times and hit the post twice.

“But then they get a goal from a world class strike – which actually came from a free-kick that should not have been given – and it became a very hard job.

“It was the key moment of the game because of the way the teams were set up and it made it much harder for us.”

* Full story in today’s Sunderland Echo