For the first time in their 81-year history, Wigan Athletic can lay claim to the FA Cup trophy.
The away side captured a 1-0 victory over Manchester City in the FA Cup final off the head of substitute Ben Watson, who entered for Jordi Gomez in—you guessed it—the 81st minute.
Watson's goal at the start of the added time helped Wigan do something they have never done before, and the home side was truly stunned as the celebrations began on Saturday afternoon for Wigan Athletic.
The club's official Twitter helped get the celebration going:
Manchester City 0 Wigan Athletic 1 Ben Watson with a stunning header! They said 'let's make history' and Wigan Athletic have! #wafcwembley— Wigan Athletic (@LaticsOfficial) May 11, 2013
Scoreless through 90 minutes on Saturday with Manchester City at Wembley Stadium, Wigan looked timid in the first half of the match, playing more like a team trying not to make the crucial mistake than one trying to grasp a championship trophy.
After a scoreless 45 minutes, the two sides came back to the pitch in the second half to duke it out for the FA Cup title. The action did not disappoint, as both Wigan and City left it on the field in pursuit of the elusive crown.
Wigan's pace picked up considerably in the second half, but it was City who still controlled their own fate for the majority of the match. City largely dominated the shots on goal for most of the afternoon, but they were unable to beat Joel Robles in net—one of the keys for Wigan to pull off this upset for the title.
A big turning point in the match came in the 84th minute, when Pablo Zabaleta was sent off with a red card for his second booking of the day, this time for cutting down Shaun Maloney in the open field. The EPL's Twitter account helped break the news to City fans not in attendance.
Man City's Pablo Zabaleta has been sent off in the #FACup final after picking up a second booking. It's Man City 0-0 Wigan after 84 minutes.— Premier League (@premierleague) May 11, 2013
Down a man and all the momentum then firmly with the away side, Wigan capitalized late in the end stages of the match. The corner kick arrived to give Wigan the chance it needed to put away City, but after the Zabaleta booking, it felt like only a matter of time until Wigan finally took advantage and put the match away.
And that's exactly what they did.
Watson, who broke his leg back in November but didn't need surgery (h/t Daily Mail), made Roberto Martinez look like a genius in the late stages of the game. But Watson's header would not have been possible without the efforts of Callum McManaman, who drew a crucial corner kick just before the game-deciding goal hit the net.
As the corner came in, Watson cut in front of his man and netted a beautiful goal to the upper left post, just above the outstretched arms of Joe Hart.
The game-deciding goal helped end a 90-minute draw at Wembley, and the final four minutes proved to be decisive for Wigan in capturing a thrilling victory for the FA Cup.
Bleacher Report's Michael Cummings was one of the first to congratulate Wigan on Twitter:
First trophy for Wigan in 81-year history. Congrats. I'm a bit jealous.— Michael Cummings (@MikeCummings37) May 11, 2013
Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl provided soccer fans the chance to relive Watson's goal one more time with a video of announcer Gus Johnson's call of the way things played out:
Video: Gus Johnson's call of Wigan's game-winner in upset of Man City for FA Cup trophy msn.foxsports.com/video?videoid=…— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) May 11, 2013
The loss doesn't bode well for City manager Roberto Mancini, already the subject of rumors about his dismissal. Several sources have linked Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini to the defending league champions, and those sources got louder on Saturday, with Pellegrini reportedly ready to move to the EPL in Mancini's stead.
Who was the man of the match?
Wigan's win might have sealed Mancini's fate.
While City must rebound from the crushing loss to salvage the rest of an otherwise brilliant season, Wigan can celebrate for the next few days. A match against Arsenal on May 14 means much more to the Gunners, but Wigan will come into the game hot and riding a wave of emotion from this thrilling win.
Let's take a look at player grades below, as well as what's next for both clubs in the coming days.
Complete Grades for Both Teams
Joel Robles, Wigan: A+
Robles kept his team in the match time after time, including a masterful kick save in the first half to thwart a Carlos Tevez goal. He managed to keep the score knotted at zero despite City's chances at the net, and he was the best player on the pitch for most of the afternoon.
Gael Clichy, City: D
Clichy had the task of keeping up with McManaman on Saturday, and he did not step up to the plate.
Most of Wigan's chances came from runs on Clichy's watch, prompting some (like Gary Lineker) to reevaluate whether he should even be on the field at all:
I think Cliche needs to wave the white flag. McManaman is destroying him. Couldn't tackle a rice pudding.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) May 11, 2013
His late clear out of bounds led to the corner and eventual Watson goal, and overall, this was a dreadful performance for one of City's better defensemen on a game-by-game basis.
Callum McManaman, Wigan: A
Throughout the game, the young Wigan striker got wherever he wanted to go on the pitch. He victimized the defense, showed a nice ability to dribble in between defenders and had a few chances in the first half that didn't go Wigan's way.
Overall, though, he was responsible for Wigan's runs in a big way.
With the season nearly over and Wigan not in a position to crash the top of the EPL table, their final two matches against Arsenal and Aston Villa will be more for pride than anything else.
The Gunners are trying to secure a top-four finish and a Champions League berth in the EPL table, and losing to Wigan would be a crushing blow with both Everton and Tottenham nipping at the heels of the Gunners in the final few days of the regular season.
City is not in danger of losing their place in the table, but this loss certainly raised questions about some of the club's key stars and if the rumors about Pellegrini's takeover are actually true.
With more questions than answers, Man City will need to push through the end of the season with Reading and Norwich City the only two clubs left on the schedule.
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