Wigan Athletics’ spirited defence of the F.A.Cup which has seen them defeat three premier league teams ended yesterday in the cruelest way possible when they went out on penalties after matching their more illustrious opponents stride for stride.
Yes Arsenal played the smoother football and created more chances but for heart, effort and endeavour, the Championship side lost nothing in comparison with every player giving their own against a team with a plethora of world class players
Wigan made a number of changes from the team that capitulated so pitifully against Millwall with seven changes to the starting line up and a continuation of the flat back four with McEachran playing the sweeper role and Beausejour and McManaman playing the supporting roles to Fortune as the lone forward
Arsenal started the game with purpose and intent and created the first chance within a couple of minutes when a too casual pass from Ramis was intercepted by Oxlade-Chamberlain but thankfully for Wigan , he over hit his shot following a neat one two with Ramsey .
Arsenal continued to push Wigan back and were harrying the Latics midfield into passing backwards and within another couple of minutes the Gunners had another chance when Sanogo put a header from close range on target but Carson was well positioned to make the save
Arsenal continued to overrun midfield as Wigan tried to play themselves into the game but all too often the passes ended up back with Carson who was forced to punt the ball up field for Fortune/McManaman who all too often were out jumped by the big Arsenal defenders thereby ceding possession back to the men in red. This saw more chances to Arsenal but Carson dealt well with the majority , the best chance falling to Sagna but he shot over the bar when well placed.
Once again Gomez was the shining light in the Wigan line up, losing nothing in comparison with his more illustrious opponent and he created Wigan’s first real chance, when a knock down by Fortune found him in space. He pushed forwards and his shot went over the hand of Fabianski, clipping the bar before going out for a goal kick.
This roused Wigan into life and McManaman playing his best game since last years final started to attack down the right with gusto but sadly no one could get on the end of a couple of good crosses
McManaman then took it upon himself to have a shot when he found himself in space in centre right midfield but his shot went narrowly over the bar.
Wigan continued to grow in confidence, they were still vulnerable to Arsenal breaking with pace but when Wigan were in possession the midfield looked composed on the ball, the passing was precise and unhurried with only the lack of support for Fortune a cause for concern. Fortune was the next Wigan player to try his luck but Fabianski saved well down at this near post.
Back came Arsenal and a Podolski free kick when narrowly wide of Carson’s goal and then Sanogo thought he had a chance when played onside by the the Wigan defence only for Carson to race out of his goal and smother the ball
Wigan trooped off at half time to a tremendous roar from their travelling support who although less than half the number of the local team ,out sang and out supported the big city club.
Arsenal continued to try and pressurise Wigan into making mistakes but the back the four with Crainey and Boyce outstanding continued to nullify their attacking threat. In midfield the mercurial skills of Gomez in tandem with the effervescent industry of McArthur saw Wigan gradually begin to match Arsenal; stride for stride with McManaman once again causing problems for the Arsenal left side defender Monreal
McArthur had the first chance of the second half but his powerful shot from a Gomez corner was blocked by the Arsenal defence
The Wigan goal came from superb work by McManamn who dispossessed Monreal and broke into the box with a mazy run, just as he was shaping to shot he was fouled by Mertesacker with Mr Oliver pointing tot he spot. There then followed a delay whilst Monreal was treated for his injury before being stretcher off to be replaced by Gibbs and all the while Gomez who had missed his last two penalties had to wait to take it.
Cometh the hour cometh the man, Gomez made no mistake firing the ball past the hand of Fabianski and Wigan were ahead.
Rosler immediately altered the team, bring the more defensive minded Collison on for McEachran and a few minutes after bringing on Powell, surprisingly withdrawing the effervescent McManaman in the process
Arsenal then roused themselves into a period of sustained pressure with Sanogo firing over and an absolute long range fizzer from Oxlade-Chamberlain being well saved by Carson.
When Arsenal did manage to beat Carson they found themselves thwarted by the woodwork twice and once by a goal lien clearance from Crainey
For Wigan it was the occasional break upfield but with Fortune visibly tiring, it was left to Powell to try and steal the second but he struggled to get anything on target .
Wigan were hanging on and just as the fans began to believe it might be their heroes day once again, Arsenal levelled,, when a corner wasnt cleared and the ball found Mertesacker unmarked at the back post to put the ball in the net
Carson had to save well down to his left from a powerful shot from Giroud as Wigan struggled to re-organise following the enforced substitution of the injured Ramis by birthday boy Gary Caldwell
The game went itno extra time and with Wigan seemingly out on their feet at the end of ninety minutes it was left to a stirring motivational speech by Rosler and the exhortations of the 15,000 or so Wiganners in the crowd to lift their team and they did.
The extra time was a tense affair, both sides trying to nick the winner but not get caught out at the back, and Arsenal had the better chances with Sanogo twice and Oxlade-Chamberlain going oh so close.
For Wigan wasted efforts by Powell and Collison when in good positions were the best they had to offer and as the thirty minutes were up we settled down to the penalty shoot out.
Wigan went first and it takes guts to volunteer to take a penalty in this situation and although Wigan’s first two were saved no blame can be attached to Caldwell and Collison as they were prepared to stand up and be counted. McArthur and Beausejour both converted theirs but with Arsenal converting all their first three it was left to Santi Carzola who stepped up, fired past Carson to send Arsenal into the final.
Wigan players and Uwe Rosler immediately went to applaud their fans who support had been magnificent and the fans in turn applauded their monumental effort in such a honourable defence of the F.A.Cup
Team Line up and Player Ratings
Carson……9, a superb effort and MOM
Boyce…….8, an immense defensive performance.
Ramis…….7, defended well, withdrawn injured.
Crainey…..8, best game in a Latics shirt, an amazing goal line clearance.
Perch…….7, little chance to attack but defended well.
McEachran…6, neat touches but a tendency to always pass backwards., withdrawn
McArthur…..7, ran himself into the ground.
Gomez….8.5, brilliant game, superb penalty.
Beausejour, 6.5, quiet going forwards, competent defending
McManaman….8.5, Wigan’s best attacking threat, surprisingly withdrawn.
Fortune…..7, little chance to trouble the keeper but worked hard.
Collison…..6, failed to impose himself on the game.
Powell…….6, missed a couple of chances.
Caldwell…..6, first game back for 12 months but did ok
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