Crespo Stuns Latics (Sky Sports)
Wigan Athletic 0 Chelsea 1
Hernan Crespo was Chelsea's hero on Sunday as his injury-time strike defeated a gallant Wigan Athletic 1-0.
The Argentine hit-man was excellent in a substitute's role at The JJB Stadium and after Wigan squandered a major match-winning opportunity seconds earlier, Crespo broke Latics' hearts with a stunning left foot strike to claim the points for the Premiership champions.
For nearly the entire contest, Wigan were full value to earn a point in their first match as a top-flight club, as strong defending and some potent attacking play kept Jose Mourinho's men at bay.
Despite their well-documented pedigree, The Blues struggled to break down their Lancashire opponents but their last surge forward saved the Stamford Bridge club's blushes.
Latics boss Paul Jewell handed Mike Pollitt, Pascal Chimbonda, Stephane Henchoz, Damien Francis, Henri Camara debuts on Sunday, while centre back Arjan de Zeeuw made his Wigan return after signing from Portsmouth late last week.
Jose Mourinho, meanwhile, gave summer signing Asier Del Horno his first chance of Premiership action with The Blues, but fellow new addition Shaun Wright-Phillips was left on substitutes' bench.
A vocal full-house crowd of near 25,000 at The JJB Stadium saw the home side give a fantastic account of themselves in the opening 45 minutes.
Jewell set his stall out by getting his players behind the ball and allowing Chelsea plenty of possession in non-threatening areas, while pressuring the visitors' backline with some impressive play down both flanks from wingers Gary Teale and Alan Mahon.
In fact, Wigan's new faces proved influential in the first half, with striker Camara forcing a fine diving save from Petr Cech with an early strike before the rebound fell to Jason Roberts, who could not turn the ball goalwards.
The Senegal international then threatened Chelsea's goal again but his right foot went wide of the near post before Francis forced a sure save from Cech with a strike of his own.
Chelsea struggled to find the target with some of their first half chances, as Arjen Robben, Didier Drogba and Eidur Gudjohnsen had efforts go over Pollitt's crossbar.
Chelsea's quality of attacking sides from the wings themselves was soon on display, as Robben unnerved Wigen's backline with two penetrating runs from the right flank.
However, the two left-footed shots from the moves again failed to test the former Rotherham United goalkeeper.
Wigan then produced another golden chance to take the lead when good work by Francis to win back a headed Chelsea clearance saw the former Norwich City player find Camara on the right side of the box.
The African star's low cross found Mahon at the far post but despite facing a clear cut chance in front of goal, the ball got caught under his feet and the winger ended up chipping his shot over the bar from close range.
Despite looking a shadow of the side that ran away to last season's Premiership title, Chelsea came close to having a half time lead but captain John Terry failed to hit the target with an unmarked header from Robben's left-hand corner.
Pollit was then called on to make a reflex diving save after Damien Duff's dangerous run from the right flank saw his left foot strike nearly wrong foot the Wigan number one, as both sides went to the break goalless.
The second half saw Mourinho introduce England stars Joe Cole and Wright-Phillips for Robben and Gudjohnsen and the pair created the first chance after the restart.
The former Manchester City winger made a fine run down the right flank before finding Cole but his mis-hit strike never threatened Wigan's goal.
The Latics were under more pressure in the second 45 minutes but their efforts to hold firm at the back frustrated their illustrious visitors.
Just before the hour mark, Crespo came on for Duff and the Argentine's return to Premiership football saw him force a good save off Pollitt's legs with a right foot shot.
Chelsea continued to apply pressure and Crespo's influence saw him pick out Drogba in the box but De Zeeuw did ever so well to make a timely tackle, while Cole struck a right foot at Pollitt moments later.
In fact, the home side continued to try and get forward themselves and posed a real threat towards the latter stages, even though they looked more exposed in their third of the pitch.
Indeed, Pollitt needed to be called on again to save another Terry header after a cross from the right before Wigan went ever so close to scoring but Francis' far post header from Teale's cross from right hit the Chelsea crossbar.
The match remained a pulsating contest into injury time and from a squandered Frank Lampard free kick, The Latics wasted their best chance to score after catching Chelsea on the break.
The ball went out to Teale on the right and his fine cross found substitute Andreas Johansson unmarked in front of goal but instead of taking a first touch, he woefully struck a wayward volley wide of goal.
From the ensuing goal kick, the ball found its way to Crespo on the edge of the Wigan's box and the South American stunned the home crowd with a world-class left foot strike past a diving Pollitt to win the match for The Blues.
|Wigan Athletic||Team Statistics||Chelsea|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|2||Shots on Target||5|
|9||Shots off Target||10|
Pollitt, Baines, Chimbonda, De Zeeuw, Henchoz,
Bullard, Francis, Mahon, Camara (Johansson 86), Roberts, Teale
Subs Not Used Walsh, Jackson, McMillan, Taylor
Cech, Del Horno, Gallas, Ferreira, Terry, Duff
(Crespo 59), Lampard, Makelele, Drogba, Gudjohnsen (Cole 45), Robben
Subs Not Used Cudicini, Huth
Goals Crespo 90