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.
Here’s what we learnt from a memorable night at the DW Stadium as the Latics secured a sixth round tie with another Premier League side in Southampton.
- Emirates FA Cup
- Fifth Round
- DW Stadium
- Monday 19 February 2018
- By Ross Lawson
No Powell, no problem for Latics
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.
First half battle paves the way for memorable night
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 per cent 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.
City have composure for all situations
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.
Seventh heaven for on-fire Grigg
Seven games. Seven goals. This Emirates FA Cup campaign will go down as an unforgettable one for Will Grigg.
He had to be patient but when his one chance came he took it with aplomb, seizing on a defensive mistake from City to run through on goal.
Still there was work to do but the finish came from a man brimming with confidence, steering the ball perfectly into the corner past a helpless Claudio Bravo.
Well-taken and more than timely, the cacophony of noise from the DW Stadium told you everything you needed to know about just what it meant to Wigan fans, who have become embroiled in a love affair with the competition even since their relegation to the Premier League.
Wigan the thorn in City’s quadruple bid
Few would have expected Manchester City’s bid for four titles to come to an end at the hands of a League One side.
But then, there are few teams who have put in a performance quite like this from the Latics, returning to the glory years with a performance of the ages, becoming just the third team to beat the Citizens this season.
Backs against the wall as the Premier League side, the togetherness and the effort shone through – with Walton’s final claiming of the ball celebrated as if it were a goal itself.
As for Manchester City, they were to be haunted by the magic of the Emirates FA Cup, as their seven-year wait to lift the trophy continued.