There’s an old adage in football that on any given day a good little ‘un can beat a good big ‘un. Yesterday that happened as Wigan Athletic with a team that cost eleven million pounds and due to injury virtually picked itself beat a Manchester City team valued at 0ne hundred and fifty million and sporting a bench where a fee of ten million could probably be justified for any of the outfield players warming the seats.
Much will be made of the fantastic team performance which it was but the game was won with the tactics both managers employed both before and during the game with Martinez the worthy winner
Wigan manager opted to bring back Antolin Alcaraz into the centre of defence with captian Gary Callwell who is suffering from a chronic hip problem having to be content with a place on the bench. Martinez also opted to recall Jordi Gomez in place of Ben Watson.
Wigan lined up with a fluid formation, defending with a 5-2-2-1 and 3-4-2-1 when in possession but it was City who had the first chance when Tevez broke down the Wigan left past Espinoza who seemed to have been dragged inside out of position but thankfully the ball was overhit and Wigan had the opportunity to settle.
Wigan started to play their open passing game with no signs of nerves and once again the controlling influence in midfield was James McCarthy who outshone Toure , Nasri and Silva, his ball distribution freeing up Espinoza to attack on the left with McManaman providing Clichy an afternoon that the young Frenchman will have nightmares about.
It was McManaman who had Wigan’s first chance when following a lovely though ball from Kone found the young Liverpudlian cut inside and tried to curl the ball around Nastasic but the ball went narrowly past the far post.
City attacked at pace and Robles had to save well from Silva, Espinoza clearing the loose ball. City then won a free kick at the edge of the area when Boyce was adjudged to have fouled Aguero, the shot hit the wall and the rebound shot by Toure was well saved by Robles.
Statistics show Wigan score a high percentage of goals from set pieces and City concede a high percentage of goals from set pieces and Wigan’s set piece expert Maloney put in a good corner which Scharner headed over.
City continued to attack down Wigan’s left targeting the out of position Espinoza and put in a goal bound shot which was magnificently saved by the feet of six foot five Robles in the Wigan goal.
At the other end a lovely run by Espinoza who grew in stature as the game went on saw the defender fall under the tackle of Zabaleta in the penalty area but Mr Marriner waved away the muted Wigan penalty appeals.
Back came City again and Robles was forced into a smart save from Barry.
Alcaraz had an immense game at the back and from a rare foray forwards a lovely pass found McManaman who beat three men including Hart but in trying to create a good angle for the shot at goal he took too long and Zabaleta made a good block .
The half time whistle came with both teams at deadlock but with Wigan no doubt the happier in a game where the majority of the pundits believed that City merely had to turn up to win the cup.
The second half started with no changes on the team sheet and the game ebbed and flowed with both teams looking to utilise the wide open spaces that the Wembley pitch affords. Aguero had the first real chance when he found space on the right following a slip by Scharner but Boyce made a good block the ball going out for a corner, with Kompany heading over from the corner.
Aguero then had a penalty appeal for a foul by Scharner waved away Mr Marrienr ruling that he had slipped although had it been awarded it would have been a travesty of justice as the Argentinean was offside anyway.
Man of the match McManaman once again caused heart rates to increase with another good run into the City half but was brought down by Zabaleta earning the Argentinean a booking. This had been preceded by another mazey run in the area which was only halted by a block by City’s best player on the pitch Kompany
Wigan continued to grow in confidence and roared on by a passionate support pushed forwards and once again looked dangerous at set pieces, the best being a free kick from Maloney as the result of yet another foul on McManaman by which bounced clear off the cross bar.
Again Wigan pressed forwards and following a loose ball from Barry, Kone intercepted the ball and fed McManaman with a beautiful ball who when through the middle with a real goal scoring chance Zabaleta scythed down the attacking player , leaving Mr Marriner with no option but to award the second yellow and leave City with ten men.
Wigan made the numerical advantage cound, another wonderful run from McManamn saw claims of a penalty for a foul by Clichy waved away by Mr Marriner who awarded a corner instead but City’s respite was short lived when substitute Watson rose magnificently to ehad the ball unchallenged intot he City net to give Wigan the lead.
Wigan then endured a nervy four minutes of time added on but the full time whistle brought to an end an enthralling cup final and ensured that Wigan’s name was not only on the cup but on the lips of a global TV audience of over half a billion people.
Team Line up and ratings
Robles…….8, pulled off some fine saves.
McArthur…….7, played out of position but let no one down.
Alcaraz…….8.5, magnificent cool and composed
Scharner……8, the usual passionate performance from Wigan’s adopted Austrian.
Boyce…….8, a captian’s role.
Espinoza…….7.5, grew in stature as the game went on, attacked well.
McCarthy……8.5, bossed midfield.
Gomez…….7, confident and assured, withdrawn.
Maloney…….7.5, worked hard , unlucky not to score.
Kone………8, his battle with Kompany was worth the admission fee alone.
McManaman……9.5, fantastic performance from the man of the match, did everything bar score.
Watson for Gomez……9, his goal won us the F.A.Cup, what more can I say?
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