A goal in either half from the Maloney and McManaman ensures Wigan’s comfortable progress into their first ever F.A.Cup Final, sending their 20,000 plus supporters into paroxysms of delight at a rain sodden Wembley Stadium.
Much of the previous week’s build up had been centred around Wigan’s inability to sell out their allocation but with one England supporter confirming that the atmosphere was better than for many England internationals when the house full signs had been put out, the game was played before two sets of supporters both of whom believed that is going to be their day and were as passionate as expected.
Roberto Martinez sprang a surprise restoring Ali Al Habsi as keeper with Joel Robles having to be content with a place on the bench.
Wigan started the brighter with McCarthy controlling midfield like a classical music conductor, all precision and perfection and Kone, Maloney and McManaman proving willing foils for his class. At the back Boyce , Figueroa and Alcaraz displayed all the poise and control of a premier league defence with cool calm measured passing .
Man of the match McManaman much vilified for a tackle only a few weeks ago showed no signs of the nerves that he is famous for and forced David Forde into a fine save early on. This was followed by a sharp shot by Gomez, again Forde getting down well to save.
Millwall looked to break with long balls using the pace of Keogh but Wigan dealt with this threat comfortably as they did with Millwall’s set pieces with danger man Shittu well marshalled by Boyce and when Shittu did beat his marker , Gomez was there to clear the danger.
Maloney and Kone seemed to be able to find space at will and it was no surprise when they combined to score the opening goal. Kone dropped deep, received the ball in midfield and then his wonderful cross found Maloney who had broken away from him marker and in one fluid movement shot under Forde and Wigan had a deserved lead.
Wigan continued to press and a sharp shot by Gomez from a narrow angle hit the side netting
The second half started in much the same vein with Wigan controlling possession and Millwall looking to stretch Wigan’s back three on the break.
Martinez opted to alter the line up and tactics on the 60thminute, replacing Beausejour with McArthur and re-organising into a 4-4-2 line up. This seemed to benefit Millwall as Wigan’s passing and positioning became ragged and Al Habsi had to come off his line to punch clear on a couple of occasions.
Millwall thought they had claims for a penalty when Scharner slipped in the area but Mr Oliver was well placed to wave away the claims and replays showed the ball hit the Austrian on the side and that the referee had made the correct call.
Another close shave for Wigan came when a Dunne shot deflected off Scharner but to the relief of all the Wigan fans , the ball spooned onto the roof of the net.
Wigan sealed the game when McManaman who had switched wings to share out the torrid time he had given both full backs was put through by a brilliant slide rule ball from Gomez, rounded the keeper and slotted the ball home from a narrow angle.
Millwall never let their heads drop and continued to press forwards but Wigan kept their composure and the full time whistle brought wild celebrations form their superb travelling support
Line up and Player ratings
Al Habsi…….7, dealt with everything he needed to.
Boyce……8, a captains role, kept Shittu quiet.
Alcaraz….., cool, calm and collected.
Scharner…..7, a nervous first half, grew into the game.
Figueroa……7.5, as dependable as ever.
Beausejour…..7, some nice touches but low work rate.
McCarthy…..8.5, controlled midfield.
Gomez…..8.5, lovely ball for the 2ndgoal and wait for it; defended well ( no really).
McManaman……9, a superb performance, troubled Millwall all evening.
Kone…..8.5, tremendous workrate and superb cross for the 1stgoal.
Maloney…..8.5, took the 1stgoal well and was dangerous throughout.
McArthur, ( for Beausejour )…..7, a solid performance.
Henriquez ,(for McManaman )…..n/a
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