Ben Watson’s stoppage-time header secured a remarkable victory for Wigan against Manchester City in the FA Cup Final.
The Latics, competing in their first ever final, stunned the 86,000 fans packed inside Wembley by beating City to win their first major trophy in the clubs 81-year history.
Despite fighting against relegation in the Premier League and facing a pivotal match with Arsenal in mid-week, Roberto Martinez’s side outclassed the 2011 winners to record an unlikely triumph.
Roberto Mancini, on the other hand, was left to count the cost of a lukewarm performance from his players, and a second half red card for Pablo Zabaleta, that came on the back of rumours that he will be replaced by Manuel Pellegrini in the summer, a factor perhaps in his downbeat demeanour across the day.
But the day belonged to Martinez, whose astute tactical plan to deploy McManaman and Arouna Kone high up the field forced City to curb their instinct to attack in numbers and gave Wigan a threat on the break.
Indeed, Wigan were the better side in the first half but had to survive an early onslaught from their opponents with Joel Robles denying Yaya Toure with a smart diving save and performing miracles to deflect Carlos Tevez’s strike wide with his legs.
The Latics soon found their feet and McManaman was guilty of the extra touch as he opted to shoot with his left foot, not with his right and curled wide after being found by Kone in the City penalty area prior to jinking his way into the box and crashing a stinging effort at Zabaleta.
Another surge towards a sea of City bodies saw McManaman deliver a threatening ball across goal that was turned away from danger by Vincent Kompany. His relentless industry then bought a free kick on the right flank that Shaun Maloney curled onto the top of Hart’s crossbar before a surge down the middle saw him chopped down by Zabaleta with six minutes left. Referee Andre Marriner had no hesitation in sending the Argentine for an early bath – only the third player to be dismissed in Cup Final history.
And with the game heading for extra time Watson stole in at the near post to glance in Maloney’s corner to send Wigan and their supporters into pandemonium and leave with a day they will never, ever forget.
Roberto Mancini post-match…”It was a good game. They scored in the last minute and for us it was very difficult. We didn’t play very well, I don’t know why. We had a chance because we had two or three incredible chances but in the end we didn’t play like we usually do. It’s rubbish this speculation. I will still be here next season. It is rubbish. I am very sorry for our fans.”
Roberto Martinez post-match…“In any final you feel the result could go either way. We were playing an incredible side. We didn’t win by luck – from start to finish it was an incredible performance. The FA Cup is such a special tournament, and everyone deserves to feel proud today. Everyone wrote us off before the game, but we were following a dream. You cannot describe the feeling at the moment. My players faced adversity and played with a smile. I am so proud of them.”
Man of the Match…Callum McManaman: Although it was team-mate Ben Watson who scored the winning goal McManaman was the star of the show for Wigan. City cried for their mothers every time he was on the ball as he drove at them with speed and menace and it was refreshing to see an old fashioned winger shine in a major final.
Flop of the Match…Gael Clichy: Directly opposing McManaman the City full-back was tortured to the point of tears. Struggled to contain the lively Wigan winger and must have breathed a colossal sigh of relief at the final whistle.