Latics Dent Blues' Title Bid  (Sky Sports)

Chelsea 1 Wigan Athletic 1

Emile HeskeyAn injury-time strike from Emile Heskey earned Wigan a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge to leave Chelsea's Premier League title hopes in tatters.

A second-half goal from Michael Essien had put Chelsea in front, but Heskey pounced in the 92nd minute to leave honours even and boost Wigan's own hopes of top-flight survival.

In a first half of few opportunities it was Nicolas Anelka - who was given a rare opportunity in a central striking role - who had the best chance, but his header was saved by the excellent Wigan goalkeeper Chris Kirkland.

Chelsea manager Avram Grant then introduced Joe Cole in place of the ineffective Florent Malouda at the interval and the midfielder made the difference in a lively opening to the second half.

Kirkland was helpless to prevent Essien opening the scoring on 55 minutes as Anelka held the ball up well to allow his team-mate to slot in a side-footed effort from the edge of the penalty area.

But with Chelsea seemingly over the finishing line, Heskey met a precise cross from substitute Jason Koumas to slot in at the far post deep into stoppage time.

Largely disappointing

Chelsea, who had Petr Cech back in goal, but were without Frank Lampard, should have been in front in the fifth minute only for Anelka to head Salomon Kalou's cross wide from six yards.

Five minutes later Kirkland was alert enough to deal with a through-ball from Essien that threatened to provide Anelka with a goalscoring opportunity.

But Wigan withstood Chelsea's early fire and created a real opportunity of their own in the 19th minute when Wilson Palacios back-heeled the ball and Antonio Valencia forced Cech into a fine save at his near post.

Moments later, a fine turn from Michael Ballack in the Wigan penalty area should have caused the visitors more problems but the German's cross was easily dealt with by Kirkland.

Chelsea were largely disappointing going forward and Anelka was left to chase hopeful long balls that Paul Scharner and Emmerson Boyce dealt with comfortably.

Chelsea almost went in front in the 26th minute when a header from Anelka looked certain to loop over Kirkland and into the net until the Wigan goalkeeper somehow managed to get a hand to it.

In the 34th minute, a corner from Juliano Belletti was headed goalwards by John Obi Mikel only for Josip Skoko to clear off his goal-line.

Wigan side were in no mood to capitulate and it needed a last-ditch tackle from Scharner to prevent Anelka from getting on the end of a pass from Essien.

Booed off

Chelsea were running out of ideas as fast as the home crowd were running out of patience and the players were unsurprisingly booed off at half-time.

Avram Grant's displeasure with the tepid opening half from his Chelsea side produced a half-time change with Cole replacing the ineffective Malouda.

The move almost brought an instant reward for the home side when a shot from Cole was charged down by the Wigan defence.

Another effort from Cole in the 49th minute failed to trouble Kirkland but the England international's introduction had clearly had a galvanising effect on the home side.

The visiting defence came under siege and captain John Terry thumped the ball against the crossbar when he let fly with a volley from Belletti's 53rd-minute corner.

But two minutes later Chelsea were finally in front and Cole was the architect.

His cross into the penalty area was collected by Anelka who looked to have wasted the chance when he slipped over but the Frenchman cleverly knocked the ball into the path of Essien, who beat Kirkland with a rising drive.

Cole almost added a second for Chelsea in the 77th minute but his fierce, angled drive flew inches wide of the target.

Three minutes from time though Chelsea had masked-man Cech to thank when he pulled off a superb save to deny Wigan substitute Antoine Sibierski.

But worse was to come for Chelsea when Heskey volleyed home a cross from substitute Koumas to leave the gap at the top looking almost too wide for Chelsea to close.


Chelsea  Cech, Belletti, Alex, Terry, Bridge, Ballack, Essien, Mikel (Shevchenko 90), Kalou, Anelka, Malouda ( J. Cole 46)
Subs Not Used  Hilario, Pizarro, Wright-Phillips
Goals  Essien 55

Wigan Athletic  Kirkland, Melchiot, Scharner, Boyce, Kilbane, Valencia, Skoko (Koumas 56), Palacios, Taylor (King 79), Heskey, Bent (Sibierski 64)
Subs Not Used
Pollitt, Brown
Booked Koumas, Valencia
Goals Heskey 90


A. Marriner

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