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Wigan in surprise 2-0 win at Aston Villa
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By JAMES PIERCY
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Wigan manager Roberto Martinez praised his players for hitting back at their critics with an outstanding 2-0 win over Aston Villa at Villa Park.
Wigan went into the first match as one of the favourites for relegation after losing previous boss Steve Bruce and a host of top players over the summer.
But a superb strike from Hugo Rodallega after 31 minutes and a rare goal from Jason Koumas just before half time saw off Villa's surprisingly docile challenge.
Martinez, Bruce's replacement from Swansea, admitted the down-beat appraisal of Wigan's prospects had acted as a spur.
"We have not had any headlines and instead there has been a lot of negative press but I thought this was the perfect answer.
"Aston Villa are going to be one of the better sides in this division and they are chasing a place in the top four. They have had a great pre-season but I felt we deserved to win.
"Villa were great for ten or 15 minutes but after that I felt we got on top and might have won by more than two goals."
Colombian striker Rodallega put Wigan ahead in the 31st minute with a goal even at this stage of the season could be one of the best all year.
Rodallega's dipping volley from the edge of the area gave Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel no chance and deflated the anxious home side.
Martinez said: "Hugo is desperate to be a success in the Premier League after taking time to settle last season. When he is on song, like he was today, he is a great talent.
"At places like Villa Park you are not going to get many chances, so we have to make our own as Hugo did."
Charles N'Zogbia's surging run from his own half set up an easy second in the 44th minute for Koumas, who went through the whole of last season without a goal.
Friedel made good saves from Rodallega and new signing Jordi Gomez to prevent a bigger margin of defeat while Villa created little until near the end when Steve Sidwell headed wide from eight yards.
Villa manager Martin O'Neill offered no excuses for a poor home performance which blew an instant hole in top four claims made on their behalf.
O'Neill said: "Apart from the opening few minutes I thought we were disappointing. Wigan got a great goal and that hit us harder than it should have done. We should have been able to bounce back.
"We have had a good build up to the new season so this makes the result harder to understand. But there is a long way to go and we have to learn from it and move on.
"In the end we had to be grateful for some good saves from our goalkeeper and that is not something you want to be saying on the first day of the season."
Updated August 15, 2009