Will Grigg’s fine low strike saw 2013 Emirates FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic produce one of the shocks of this year’s tournament after a stunning and dogged victory over Premier League leaders Manchester City.
The League One side had their backs against the wall for most of the game but held their nerve and defensive spirit to take a massive victory in a repeat of the 2013 final, which they also won 1-0.
To get a result against the leading side in the country usually requires your top players to be on top form. But Wigan’s gameplan for their key playmakers to shine was thwarted before it even began as Nick Powell – a former Manchester United player no less – hobbled off in the first half. Yet Paul Cook’s side are made of stern stuff and Powell’s absence was not as harshly felt as some may have felt, even if the attacking impetus did take a blow.
But the home side, who are looking to push into the Championship, showed they can operate without Powell the 23-year-old in their bid for promotion.
Keeping Manchester City goalless is no mean feat but that’s exactly what Wigan did in their special Emirates FA Cup victory in 2013, forcing the Premier League giants into a shutout. And the first 45 minutes this time around proved they meant business once again, limiting City to long-range efforts as the visitors grew more and more frustrated.
Pep Guardiola’s side had more than 82% possession and seven corners in the first 45 minutes alone – with goalkeeper Christian Walton helping out on the rare occasions the Wigan backline was penetrated.
It’s a tactic teams have struggled with for the majority of the season but, after an explosive first 15 minutes, the Latics seemed to grow in confidence to keep faith in their defensive plans.
Fabian Delph’s red card on the stroke of the break would have changed the complexion of the half-time team talks – but if that affected City’s desire to push forward, they certainly didn’t show it. Indeed, their composure remained largely unchanged, particularly in the first 15 minutes of the half, as patient build-up play proved the order of the day. The introduction of Kevin de Bruyne saw them turn the screw heading into the final 20 minutes, now possessing an extra pizzazz and purpose in their desire to avoid a replay.
However, chances still continued to be at a premium with Walton rarely tested, though the more frequent ventures into his penalty area late on saw Wigan pushed onto the back foot until their dramatic winner.