Wigan produced one of the biggest shocks in FA Cup history as they earned a 1-0 final win over Manchester City on Saturday.
City toiled for much of the game against a Wigan side willing to show plenty of endeavour and, after Pablo Zabaleta was sent off for a second bookable offence, Roberto Martinez’s side capitalised as Ben Watson headed home a late, late corner to win it.
The headline team news for Manchester City came in the shape of Roberto Mancini’s decision to pick Joe Hart in goal over Costel Pantilimon.
The Romanian had featured in every round prior to the final, conceding just one goal, but missed out with his fellow shot-stopper among just three players to retain their place from the midweek win over West Brom.
Wigan, meanwhile, made just two changes from their demoralising Premier League defeat at the hands of Swansea, with Gary Caldwell and Ben Watson making way for Paul Scharner and Antolin Alcaraz.
Understandably given the teams’ respective fortunes in the Premier League this season, City started the brighter at Wembley. And with barely two minutes on the clock Yaya Toure almost provided the perfect start as he followed up Carlos Tevez’s deflected free-kick but could not beat Joel Robles’ dive.
Wigan soon proved that they would not be easy pickings, however, as Arouna Kone’s intelligent ball allowed Callum McManaman to turn in the box.
The young attacker should perhaps have pulled back to his Ivorian team-mate instead of driving wide in an attempt to score on his weaker foot but the underdogs’ intentions were clear.
Both sides struggled to get going creatively after that exchange of chances, with 30 minutes having lapsed until another flourish of opportunities.
Tevez was the recipient of both but the Argentine was foiled by a brilliant Robles save following a David Silva pull-back before driving the ball high and wide from the right-hand side.
Martinez’s side then took their turn at attacking in an end-to-end encounter, with McManaman beating the offside trap but inadvertently tightening his angle and failing to get a shot beyond a scrambling City defence.
That proved to be the last genuine chance of the half, but City were soon at it again after the restart with Sergio Aguero seeing his shot well saved before Vincent Kompany headed narrowly over. McManaman then fashioned another great chance for himself with 65 minutes on the clock, jinking beyond two defenders but seeing his shot blocked brilliantly by the sliding Kompany.
City could only manage a 1-0 victory against Wigan in the sides’ meeting at the Etihad Stadium in April, a win which came courtesy of an 83rd-minute winner. Mancini’s side looked ready to pull off the same trick again as they pressed for a winner with time running out, only for the game to take an unfortunate twist – in their eyes at least.
Zabaleta, who had already received a yellow card for a trip on McManaman in the second half, lunged into the same man again as he broke from midfield and gave the referee little choice but to brandish a second caution and a red card.
That decision gave Wigan’s tiring legs a timely boost, and things were about to get even better for the underdogs. Shaun Maloney’s gorgeous corner delivery begged a touch and Watson duly obliged, meeting the ball with a towering header at the front post which found the far corner beyond a sprawling Joe Hart.
The timing of the goal could not have been more perfect, with City failing to muster even a chance in the remaining minutes as Wigan secured a dream result.