This post was always going to be difficult to complete without constantly referencing the weekend, so I shall attempt to work it out of my system in the opening paragraphs. “Fat chance of that,” I hear you cry, but I owe you an attempt at the very least. Here we go…
In today’s Evening Post 12th Man column, our good friend Mr Worthington was unashamed to admit the emotion proved so great that he burst into tears on the long trip home. I’m sure he won’t mind me referencing this as long as I admit I almost did the same, though my own trigger came while watching replays of the second goal on th’internet the subsequent morning.
A small tear forced its way from my right eye as I relived the moment Latics secured a return to the capital on 11 May. Good job there were no other people in the room to see it otherwise I would have been scrabbling for the time-honoured excuses: “a midge flew into my eye,” “the monitor’s far too bright” or “last night’s curry is attempting a reappearance”. That last one is usually a good distraction, I find.
For Manchester City, I suppose reaching the FA Cup Final is like changing your socks or pouring yourself a cup of tea – satisfying in its own way, but not exactly an unusual occurrence. With a squad as strong as theirs and the Prem title now all but lost, no doubt some fans would have expected nothing less on Sunday afternoon.
But who would suffer most from the effects of their big cup date? As anticipated, there were changes aplenty from both successful participants as, in a great twist of fate, the two finalists squared off in a dress rehearsal for just under a month’s time. Thankfully, however, this one was in Manchester rather than London.
Man City never found their feet in a frustrating first half, allowing Latics to settle into their preferred passing game. And the hosts were almost made to pay by Franco Di Santo, who was only just denied a goal upon his return to the starting XI by Joe Hart at full stretch. A great save, but I’d guess Kone, a man with more game time of late, would have stuck it away no problem.
Less than a minute after the Argentine’s near miss, Sergio Aguero was mere inches away from breaking the deadlock for the home side as he stretched to poke home, a stranded Joel Robles relegated to the role of spectator. Two chances in succession – perhaps now the contest, previously a tad lethargic, might spring into life?
Though City were spurred on somewhat, it was Wigan who went into the break with more credit. The home side’s finishing (fortunately) lacking, it was a relatively simple task to allow the likes of Kolarov and Garcia to fire wide again and again. Surely this performance could not last into the second half?
Well, couldn’t it?
Latics proceeded to control the game, holding possession and dominating midfield just like on Saturday (see, I told you I’d end up referencing it). Lacklustre City could only watch as Maloney and McCarthy scuttled amongst them like kids on a sugar high, creating openings that Kompany did well to stamp out for the most part.
The excellent Di Santo, who seemed to pick up an ankle niggle, was replaced by Saturday’s hero Callum McManaman on 68 minutes. You sensed he would create one chance, but would he score it?
Macca picked up the ball just outside the City area. Jinking past one defender, he worked a magnificent shooting opportunity, and fired the ball… right into the gloves of Hart. I honestly thought he would finish it with clinical confidence, but the chance was gone. And against Man City, you are always liable to pay for your missed chances.
City’s second wind
The hosts gathered their strength for a final push. Though they had shown little sign of conjuring a winning goal, this is Manchester City we’re talking about, an ever-present danger as we know all too well.
True to form, the home side mustered enough to draw Joel Robles into his first real save of the game, and it was a cracker. Closing down Edin Dzeko at a rate of knots, he confidently blocked the Bosnian’s strike to preserve his much-deserved clean sheet.
The danger was far from over, however. On 83 minutes, that pesky Tevez powered past the otherwise superb Scharner, and you prayed he might miss the target. But he did not, and the ball came to rest in the back of the net. An absolute killer, in more ways than one.
Though there were approximately ten minutes including stoppage time to play, Latics had expended all their energy and increasingly banked upon closing the game out for a hard-fought 0-0 draw. Sadly there was not enough in the tank to launch a fightback, and with City effectively playing out time, the visitors were doomed to an unjust fate.
I shall close this article with a rather bold statement. I may come to regret it, but it accurately sums up my feelings on this evening’s game without the rigmorole of two to three paragraphs of tabloid-esque analysis I usually cart out. And that statement is this:
There is no way Wigan will go down. Yeah.