Manchester City vs. Wigan Athletic
Date: Sunday 9th March 2014
Venue: The Etihad Stadium
Referee: Anthony Taylor
A tactical masterstroke from Uwe Rosler saw Wigan Athletic beat Manchester City in the F.A. Cup for the second time in the space of ten months as the Latics booked a place in the semi-final of the oldest cup competition.
Before the match started, Wigan were, in some betting shops, 16/1 to beat City at the Etihad. This seemed to have no effect on the Latics as they pulled off the shock of the cup so far by beating the Citizens 2-1 on Sunday evening.
Jordi Gomez converted a penalty, poorly conceded by Martin Demichelis, midway through the first half before James Perch doubled their lead against the premier league champions-elect after taking advantage of some abject defending by Gael Clichy.
Despite, Samir Nasri half-volleying City back into the game with twenty minutes to go, the Latics defended superbly and earned themselves a fourth trip to Wembley within a year where they will play Arsenal in the semi-final.
Similar to last Sunday’s league cup victory over Sunderland, Manchester City started the game poorly and appeared sloppy at the back, with Demichelis being the serious weak link in the centre of defence yet again.
In contrast, Wigan were very tight at the back and seemed to have a clear game-plan: they would not sit back and hope that they had one chance to score. They would attack their opposition and not give them too much respect.
Rosler’s ambitious tactics paid off after 27 minutes as Marc-Antoine Fortune turned Demichelis with absolute ease before being clumsily tackled by the Argentinian in the Manchester City box. A stone-wall penalty. No doubt about it.
All eyes were then on Gomez as he stepped up to take the penalty. And with absolute calmness, he made it 1-0 to the Latics as he sent Costel Pantilimon the wrong way.
What was the plan for Wigan now? Sit back and soak up sixty minutes of City pressure?
It didn’t work for Sunderland in the league cup so why should it work for Wigan?
After completely playing City off the park in the first half, Wigan did something which no-one, not even the most optimistic of Wigan fans, expected: they came out after the break and attacked the Citizens and made it 2-0.
James McArthur, who worked tirelessly for 95 minutes, won the ball on the edge of the box. He drove into the box, passing Demichelis and Micah Richards too easily, before crossing early to the back post. It seems as though there was a lack of communication between Pantilimon and Clichy as the latter hesitated in clearing the ball. Perch took advantage of this hesitation and tapped the ball into the goal at the back post.
This was not in the script. Surely Wigan Athletic, little Wigan Athletic could not…should not get to another Wembley semi-final.
Then came the Manchester City onslaught. Three substitutions were made by Manuel Pellegrini in an attempt at salvaging this cup tie.
A beautiful cross by Clichy fell onto the head of substitute, Edin Dzeko, who could only hit the inside of the post before a Clichy corner was cleared as far as the edge of the box for Nasri to half-volley into the bottom corner of the net. There was more than a suggestion of off-side in this as Joleon Lescott was in Scott Carson’s line of sight.
Within seconds, City almost equalised but Richards could only put a shot wide of the post. Wigan were in for a tough last twenty.
However, the Latics had a chance to put the game beyond City as Fortune gained the ball inside the opposition half. James McClean, had he been seen, would have been clear on goal. Instead, Fortune chose to shoot from forty yards; a shot which went over the bar.
With minutes to go in the tie, Latics’ legend, Emmerson Boyce, made the tackle of the decade as he prevented Dzeko from putting the ball into an empty net from three yards out.
This was obviously Wigan’s day.
Finally, Dzeko scuppered City’s last chance to equalise as he put a free header the wrong side of the post.
Upon hearing the final whistle, the Latics’ fans breathed a sigh of relief before singing ‘We beat Man City with a Watson goal’. Every single Wigan player came over to the 4,000 strong following to congratulate the fans.
Everyone will underestimate Wigan again when it comes to the semi-final against Arsenal. But surely the Latics have proven that they are no push over and will not give up the F.A Cup without a fight.