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Watford boss Gianfranco Zola admits Wigan Athletic's ruled-out goal should have stood
Gianfranco Zola believes Watford have learned from the mistakes that saw them sacrifice a two-goal lead against Norwich City in the week as his side ground out a narrow 1-0 win against Wigan Athletic this afternoon – although he did admit the visitors had a legitimate goal ruled out.
Cristian Battocchio’s calm finish with eight minutes of normal time remaining decided a contest which the Hornets boss admitted was “flat” for most of the match.
The Golden Boys looked set to secure victory against Premier League opposition on Tuesday as they led 2-0 with less than a quarter of an hour remaining but then capitulated to allow Norwich to take the game to extra-time, where Gary Hooper scored the winner.
Speaking about today’s victory, Zola said: “We were comfortable. To be honest, Wigan made a big effort towards the ball (pressing) and they achieved their task but they were not posing a big threat coming forward.
“After the goal, we learned from the game we played with Norwich and everyone was tuned in and worked hard to defend the goal; it worked quite well.”
"I think it was probably one of the toughest games we have played since I have been here,” Zola continued.
“It was two top teams in the table and the values of the teams are really similar so it was balanced on the pitch and we had to be patient, keep working hard and wait for the opportunity to come to score and that is exactly what happened today.
“Don’t forget it was the fifth game in two weeks and that counts for us and for them. So of course the quality of the game cannot be fantastic and I acknowledged that. But we showed a lot of character to win this game and that is something which will be very important until the end of the season.”
He added: “The game was completely flat. We were not creating enough and they were not creating enough.
“They were good because they pressed all over the pitch and kept the ball quite well which made it difficult for us to keep the ball and it was tough to get it back today because of their quality and experience.
“Then we changed it by sacrificing one midfielder for another striker by changing the balance and it worked and I am delighted. But it was a tough game.”
Wigan thought they had gone ahead in the first half when James McLean reached the byline and had a low cross parried to Nick Powell, who finished confidently. However, the linesman had flagged for offside and the strike was ruled out. A decision Zola believes was wrong.
The Italian said: “I thought that the offside was given a long time before they scored and I saw it straight away but I have seen it again and it wasn’t offside.
“But the linesman put his flag up way before the goal was scored when the pass was going to the wide man (McLean). They scored two or three seconds later so we could have avoided that. Some of my players saw the linesman’s flag.”
Wigan also felt they should have been awarded a penalty in the second half, with the score 0-0, when a sloppy back pass by Iriney played Lloyd Doyley into trouble and he was beaten to the ball by Powell, who went down as the Watford defender attempted to clear.
This time Zola disagreed with his counterpart Owen Coyle and did not believe it was a spot kick – adding he felt his side should also have been awarded a penalty.
Zola said: “I think we could have had a penalty as well so it is not a big one (factor in the game). The referee didn’t blow so what can I say. It is the same old story; the referee hasn’t seen it and in this case I am glad because it was for the other side. If it was for me I would be complaining. No I’m only joking; I don’t think it was a penalty from my position.”
Click here to read a report from today's game.
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