Spaniard scores two as he continues rehab from knee injury by firing side into eighth.
|Kuyt (right) made a mistake to let Wigan in for the only goal [GALLO/GETTY]|
Wigan Athletic clinched their first-ever win over Liverpool to leave the Reds with a daunting task if they are to claim the fourth European Champions League spot in England.
The Latics won 1-0 at the DW Stadium with a tap-in from top-scorer Hugo Rodallega after a mistake by Dirk Kuyt allowed Emmerson Boyce to square the ball.
A second win in 14 matches takes Roberto Martinez’s side four points clear of the English Premier League relegation zone.
And it leaves Liverpool a point adrift of fourth and fifth-placed Tottenham and Manchester City with more games played than either.
Reds boss Rafael Benitez now faces another inquest into his side’s performance.
This time last year, Liverpool looked on course to end their 18-year wait for a title.
But woeful form this term has left the 2005 European Champions fighting even to clinch a place in the consolation Europa League for next season.
Liverpool are currently playing in that competition after being knocked out of this year’s Champions League.
|Results & fixtures|
Saturday March 6
Arsenal 3-1 Burnley
Sunday March 7
Everton 5-1 Hull
Monday March 8
Tuesday March 9
Portsmouth v Birmingham
Having beaten Chelsea earlier this season, Monday night was also only the second time Wigan have ever beaten a “big four” team.
Javier Mascherano was once again asked to fill in at right back but Glen Johnson was back on the bench after two months out.
But Argentina captain Mascherano did not seem to mind the unfamiliar role and quickly got forward to good effect.
His cross was only half cleared by Gary Caldwell and Steven Gerrard thumped a shot over from just outside the area.
Liverpool began strongly and produced a threat again when Fernando Torres’ volley flew wide off the post from Yossi Benayoun’s deep cross.
Titus Bramble was forced into a fine block after Gerrard broke through midfield again and tried his luck from long range.
But struggling Wigan recovered from their early hesitancy and caused Liverpool plenty of problems.
A strong run from James McCarthy, who was a Liverpool target as a youngster, was only halted by a fine tackle by Jamie Carragher on the edge of the area.
And Wigan winger Charles N’Zogbia also sent over a couple of dangerous crosses after beating defender Emiliano Insua with ease.
The Reds produced a fine passing move with Maxi Rodriguez and Benayoun before Gerrard scuffed his shot wide from close range.
But Wigan made no mistake when Kuyt gave the ball away on the edge of his own area.
Boyce curled a cross over and Rodallega fired in from close range to give the strugglers a shock lead.
And Torres failed to level when he headed over from six yards after he was picked out by a Rodriguez cross.
Wigan continued to pressure after the restart and Pepe Reina had to desperately grab an N’Zogbia cross at the near post.
And as Torres tried to get Liverpool on level terms, he fired over from a low Rodriguez cross.
Benitez had finally seen enough of Lucas and dragged the Brazilian off to replace him with Johnson.
Wigan almost doubled their lead when Carragher’s clearance flew off Marcelo Moreno and was headed wide by Reds defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos.
And Bolivian forward Moreno forced a fine save from Reina with a powerful drive after he cut in from the right.
N’Zogbia nearly created a second when his low shot beat Reina and Paul Scharner failed to touch in at the far post.
Liverpool pressed and pressed but failed to trouble Latics goalkeeper Chris Kirkland.
Substitute Victor Moses could have made the game safe for Wigan but shot narrowly wide as the hosts pressed hard on the break in added time.
They also survived a late goal-mouth scramble to grind out a first-ever victory over Liverpool and leave major doubts about whether the Reds can reach the Champions League.