Wigan Athletic stunned Manchester City on Saturday to claim the FA Cup for the first time in their 81-year-history courtesy of an injury-time winner from Ben Watson, 1-0.
By that point City had been reduced to 10 men following a second yellow card for Pablo Zabaleta five minutes earlier and Wigan took full advantage without even the need for extra time when Watson headed in the only goal after coming off the substitute’s bench.
Wigan controlled possession for large parts of the match and had several chances that weren’t capitalized upon by Callum McManaman. Although City were denied by a stunning save from Joel Robles, they failed to do enough throughout to warrant lifting the FA Cup for the second time in three seasons.
For Wigan there will be little time to rejoice in their memorable victory, though, as attention will quickly turn to their attempts to stave off relegation from the Premier League -- beginning with a crucial encounter with Arsenal on Tuesday.
As for the losers, the pressure will now increase on manager Roberto Mancini as the defeat means that City will go trophy-less for the 2012-2013 campaign.
Playing in the club’s first FA Cup final, Wigan’s players looked understandably nervous in the opening minutes. Thankfully for Roberto Martinez’s side, though, goalkeeper Joel Robles was alert to deny a low shot from Yaya Toure from the edge of the box after Carlos Tevez’s free-kick had been blocked.
But after an early spell of pressure from City, it was Wigan that gained the ascendency. With their trademark short-passing style, Wigan controlled possession in midfield and began to make inroads in attack as well.
Their best chances fell the way of McManaman but the man who had scored in the previous three rounds of the FA Cup this time couldn’t find the finish. The best of his opportunities came after just nine minutes.
Arouna Kone released the young forward down the right and McManaman, faced by Matija Nastasic, elected to cut back onto his left foot but then curled his effort wide of Joe Hart’s far post.
It was a similar chance that came his way later in the half. This time released down the left, McManaman was met by the outrushing Hart and again cut back but, having delayed and delayed, his shot was blocked by Zabaleta.
Wigan will also have been left frustrated at the half by the failure to award a penalty when Roger Espinoza appeared to have clearly had his legs taken from under him from behind by Zabaleta.
While Wigan were having the better of the play, it was City that came closest to scoring in the opening half. Tevez looked certain to score as he stretched to shoot from Sergio Aguero’s low ball across the box but, diving the wrong way, Robles made an outstanding save with his trailing foot.
As they had done in the opening period, City came out stronger to begin the second period. They again went close to breaking the deadlock as Zabaleta’s low cross into the six-yard box only evaded David Silva at the back post by a matter of inches.
Wigan came back to life, though, and created another chance through McManaman but, again after twisting and turning inside the box, his shot was blocked to safety. The heavy underdogs struck the woodwork too, although in unconventional circumstances as Maloney’s free-kick, with which he was surely looking for a teammate, dropped onto the top of the crossbar.
Mancini had made the surprise decision to withdraw the industry of forward Carlos Tevez for defensive midfielder Jack Rodwell, which, although it helped City gain a better foothold in midfield, limited their attacking endeavors.
Still, City were looking the stronger as the match approached its final stages. That all changed, though, with six minutes remaining.
McManaman tried to burst through the middle and just got a touch to the ball ahead of Zabaleta, who followed through and floored his opponent with a late challenge. There could be no other option for referee Andre Marriner to give the Argentinean a second yellow card and reduce Manchester City to 10 men.
A dramatic finale looked on the cards and so it proved. As the clock ticked into injury time, Maloney whipped in an out-swinging corner from the right, substitute Ben Watson met the ball with a superb header at the near post that flew past Hart and into the far top corner of the net to send everyone connected with the unheralded club into jubilation.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.