Di Santo strike gives Wigan point at Fulham
Fulham 1 Wigan 1
Franco di Santo’s thumping effort earned Wigan a deserved point as Fulham’s struggles at Craven Cottage continued today.
The Argentina international made the Latics’ pressure count in the 71st minute, cutting in from the left before unleashing a fierce drive that beat Mark Schwarzer.
Di Santo’s second-half strike means the west Londoners have now failed to win in four successive home matches in all competitions, with the last victory coming against Newcastle on December 10.
It could have been so different for Martin Jol’s side, who had looked on course for a back-to-back Premier League wins for the first time since September.
Giorgos Karagounis last week opened his Fulham account with an exquisite half-volley against Blackpool in the FA Cup and scored another fantastic goal today, bursting through the middle to unleash a fierce drive that went in off the inside of the post.
However, the Greek veteran’s moment of magic was not enough for Fulham as Di Santo ensured Wigan would return to the north west with a point.
The visitors were quicker to settle on a cold afternoon by the Thames, with Shaun Maloney getting a fourth-minute strike away despite receiving a push in the back.
James McArthur saw a fizzing 20-yard strike fly just over as Wigan returned to the attack, before the Scotland international was denied another shot thanks to fine defensive cover by Bryan Ruiz.
The hosts were struggling to contain the Latics but began to threaten at the other end as Mladen Petric curled a 20-yard free-kick over.
Ruiz almost put through Dimitar Berbatov with a fine ball, before Petric, keen to impress on his return from injury, lashed over in the 15th minute.
Dimitar Berbatov was denied by a smart Ivan Ramis block as Fulham continued to press for an opener, which came in some style after 22 minutes.
Karagounis picked up the ball 40 yards out and made a beeline for goal, jinking past James McCarthy before rifling home a low strike off the inside of the post.
It was harsh on Wigan after a bright start and they could have drawn parity four minutes later had McArthur’s half volley not been straight at Schwarzer.
Alex Kacaniklic mishit a volley when the Whites returned to the attack, with McArthur booked for yanking back Ruiz as they broke forward.
While Fulham were now on top, Wigan were still getting some joy when they voyaged forward.
The visitors could have levelled as half-time approached as Emmerson Boyce found Di Santo with a fierce right-wing cross, although the Argentina striker could not direct on target.
It was not until 10 minutes into the second half that either goalkeeper was tested as Schwarzer earned his crust with a fine save.
Maloney found time and space to unleash a fine strike that was heading in via a marginal deflection until the veteran Australian superbly tipped it onto the bar.
Kieran Richardson then did well to sweep away a dangerous cross as Di Santo loitered with intent, before Maloney again tested Schwarzer.
Di Santo then expertly teed himself up before firing a volley from the edge of the box into the side-netting, leading Fulham boss Jol to bring on former Wigan favourite Hugo Rodallega in place of the ineffective Petric.
There was a goal shortly after the Colombian’s introduction, although it was scored by former team-mate Di Santo.
The 23-year-old cut in from the left flank and dribbled towards the edge of the box, before unleashing a thumping right-footed effort that beat Schwarzer.
The Argentinian tested the Fulham goalkeeper soon after as Wigan pushed for another, although play was now swinging from end to end.
Fulham peppered the visitors’ box with some dangerous crosses, before Rodallega saw an effort blocked by Gary Caldwell.
Di Santo struck the side-netting late on, before team-mate Ramis was stretchered off in stoppage time.
Maynor Figueroa incredibly cleared a Ruiz strike off the line as Wigan’s defence struggled to cope, with the final whistle met by boos from home fans.