It was to be the F.A Cup holders who were to progress to the quarter finals after a hard fought match at a cold Cardiff City Stadium. Wigan took the lead early in the first half when a perfectly weighted delivery from Jordi Gómez allowed Chris McCann to simply slot home.
Cardiff were quick to reply through Fraizer Campbell, who calmly finished from inside the penalty area. But a majestic strike from Ben Watson proved to be the difference on the day, lashing the ball home from thirty yards out and sendingUwe Rösler’s men to the brink of their second Wembley appearance in as many years.
Cardiff entered the tie against Wigan on the back of their first clean sheet under new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær after a 0-0 draw against Aston Villa on Tuesday night. Visitors Wigan came into the game after an impressive 3-0 away win at Sheffield Wednesday, with on loan City striker Nicky Maynard picking up a brace for the Latics. It was the first time that the two sides have met in the F.A Cup and their first meeting since 2005 where the visitors ran out 2-0 victors at Ninian Park in a Championship fixture.
With Fábio Da Silva and Kenwyne Jones cup-tied, changes to the squad were inevitable. Jo Inge Berget and Juan Cala both made their debuts in a starting line up that contained five changes from the team that started against Villa.
Along with the debutants, Taylor, Eikrem andDæhlimade the starting eleven, withDæhli making his first start for the club. Kenwyne Jones, Ben Turner, Declan John, Craig Noone and Jordon Mutch were the players to make way, while Wigan saw five changes from their midweek victory at Hillsborough.
The home team created the first chance of the game, as with just three minutes on the clockKévin Théophile-Catherine found himself on the by-line, just inside the penalty area. His pulled back pass just evading Eikrem ten yards out.
Wigan had a chance of their own two minutes later when a well-struck Ben Watson pass found James Perch out wide on the right. With no defenders in front of him his strike flashed in front of David Marshall’s goal and wide of his right hand post.
With just over quarter of an hour on the clock the F.A cup holders were the team on the offensive. After a sustained period of attack from the visitors, Jordi Gómez had a chance to put in a cross from the left flank. His low driven cross was met by the onrushing Chris McCann who easily slotted home from close range. 1-0 Wigan with seventeen minutes gone.
With Cardiff playing their first home game in the F.A cup in three years there was a clear determination to draw the scores level. Some neat build up play down the right between Zaha, Dæhli and Théophile-Catherine led to the ball making its way into the Wigan area. A goalmouth scramble ensued and the ball eventually fell to the feet of Fraizer Campbell who clinically rifled the ball home from fifteen yards out - the scores now level after twenty six minutes.
Solskjær’s men were not going to sit back after levelling proceedings and continued to press. Two of City’s Norwegian contingent,Dæhli and Berget, both had shooting opportunities in the minutes following the equaliser. Wilfried Zaha, fresh from being given the all clear to play by parent club Manchester United was causing the Latics’ defence all sorts of problems. His cross on thirty-three minutes found its way to Campbell on the far post, though his header could only be directed over the crossbar. The Bluebirds were now in the ascendancy.
Against the run of play Wigan Athletic gained a free kick thirty yards from the City goal. F.A Cup final hero Ben Watson received the ball from a Gómez lay-off in an attempt to avoid the Cardiff wall and with great success. His low driven strike avoided the Cardiff City defenders and ‘keeper, who could only watch it fly into the left hand side of his net. Once again, Wigan were a goal in front as Watson gained his third goal in his last four F.A Cup outings.
Going a goal behind once again sparked the home side into life. The Bluebirds’ pushed forward and nearly supplied Juan Cala with a dream debut, only to see his effort on goal being kept out by a combination of Wigan players on the line and the woodwork. The scores remained that way into half time leaving City with work to do second half.
HALF TIME: CARDIFF CITY 1-2 WIGAN ATHLETIC
Cardiff came out second half with one personnel change, Gary Medel leaving the field and Don Cowie taking his place. It almost made an immediate impact after the interval, as a jinking run from Mats Møller Dæhli ended with a shot from the youngster going wide of Ali Al-Habsi’s goal. The Oman international was then called upon five minutes later, but it was simply to gather a tame headed attempt from Juan Cala.
Wigan came very close to finding a third goal after a looping cross was directed goal-wards by Chris McCann. David Marshall was forced to parry the Irishman’s effort away after he had found the target from an acute angle. Wigan made their first substitution fifty-seven minutes in with goal scorer Ben Watson making way for Chelsea loan star Josh McEachran.
With two-thirds of the game played it was City who were the team pressing, not for the first time. With a goal needed it saw the introduction of Craig Noone into the fold at the expense of Jo Inge Berget.
With the increasing pressure from the home side the Latics seemed keen to slow play down and as a result Marc-Antoine Fortuné received a booking for kicking the ball away. They also made their second substitution not long after with James McClean replacing Callum McManaman.
With only fifteen minutes left for Cardiff to rescue the tieSolskjær made his third and final substitution, Kim Bo-Kyung on for Magnus Eikrem. In replyUwe Rösler introduced Stephen Crainey for Jordi Gómez. After the substitutions entered the field of play it was straight back to looking for the equaliser for the Bluebirds.
City came close to getting just that with two efforts in quick succession - first from Dæhli who’s shot deflected agonisingly over the cross bar and then a shot from Zaha nearly cannoned goal-wards. City were persistently knocking on the door into the final stages of the game, with Craig Noone at the heart of many of the chances. He would have secured the all-important second goal, but Al-Habsi’s fingertip save low to his right diverted the ball wide.
Cardiff were throwing men forward with Juan Cala appearing to play upfront for the final few minutes. With the new attacking shape Athletic came close to putting the tie beyond doubt, but Marshall was equal to McClean’s long distance shot.
The fourth official held up the board showing four minutes of injury time to the Cardiff Stadium crowd, and there was still time for a couple more chances. Juan Cala’s flick on was just too much for Campbell to gather and a blocked shot from captain Steven Caulker, but it was not to be. Wigan gained another Premier League scalp andOle Gunnar Solskjær left to concentrate on City’s vital last twelve league fixtures.
FULL TIME: CARDIFF CITY 1-2 WIGAN ATHLETIC
Cardiff City:Marshall, Taylor, Caulker ©, Cala,Théophile-Catherine, Medel (Cowie,45), Eikrem (Kim,78),Dæhli, Berget (Noone,61), Zaha, Campbell
Subs Not Used:Lewis, Turner, John, Gunnarsson, Kim
Wigan Athletic:Al Habsi, Perch, Boyce ©, Ramis, Beausejour, Watson (McEachran,57), McCann, Espinoza,Gómez (Crainey,78), McManaman (McClean,67), Fortuné
Subs Not Used:Nicholls, Crainey, Holgersson, Barnett, Rogne,
Referee: Martin Atkinson