Wigan hold on to dream by repeating nightmare for City
Uwe Rösler’s side set up tough FA Cup semi-final clash with Arsenal at Wembley
Wigan Athletic’s James Perch celebrates after scoring their second goal in the FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters
Manchester City 1 Wigan 2: Manchester City have all the billions in the world but they cannot rid themselves of Wigan Athletic. Once again, against all the odds, against all available logic, they have stunned City in the FA Cup. A semi-final against Arsenal is theirs. The FA Cup is still theirs. The holders are still standing. How do they do it? Wigan, bloody hell.
Last year it was the final and Ben Watson’s crazy last-minute winner, but this was just as remarkable. This time it was a quarter-final at Fortress Etihad, where no one, probably not even Wigan, truly expected lightning to strike twice.
Yet goals in both halves from Jordi Gómez and James Perch gave them something to defend and then, in the face of a late City onslaught, they simply would not budge, throwing heart, body, soul and anything else they could find to hold on to a famous victory. For their manager, Uwe Rösler, the former City striker, it is undoubtedly the greatest result of his career.
There could be no excuses for City, who are painfully aware that Wigan are underdogs who would snap away at their heels and who could deliver a potent bite if they were not kept on a tight lead.
Yet City had already exorcised their Wembley ghosts by winning last Sunday’s Capital One Cup final against Sunderland – they paraded the trophy before kick-off – and they could be forgiven for not being too afraid of Wigan given that they beat them 5-0 in the third round of that competition in September.
Yet a lot has changed for Wigan since that thrashing. Not only were they worn down by the demands of the Europa League, they were also managed by Owen Coyle, whose ill-fated reign was hastily ended in December.
His replacement was Rösler, whose impressive work at Brentford in League One had won him plenty of admirers. This was an emotional afternoon for the German. Rösler spent four years at City in the mid-90s, named his son Colin, after Colin Bell, and was inducted into club’s Hall of Fame by supporters. For Rösler, the challenge was not to allow the occasion to become about him.
Judging by the fearless way Wigan went about their task, there was no chance of that happening. Rösler, who has lifted them to seventh place, caught City by surprise by setting up his side in a 5-3-2 formation that allowed them to squeeze the space and dominate midfield, while retaining a threat in attack, where the hyperactive Callum McManaman was a constant blur of motion. Just as it was at Wembley 10 months ago, the City defence was often at the mercy of the winger’s speed, skill and directness.
City, with more than one eye on the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie against Barcelona on Wednesday, were rattled by Wigan’s effervescence.