REPORT: CARDIFF 1 WIGAN ATHLETIC 2
Latics fans are dreaming of Wembley again after the FA Cup holders made it an incredible eleven matches unbeaten in the famous old competition with a stunning victory in their first ever visit to Cardiff City stadium – and a second Barclays Premier League scalp as they reach the Quarter Finals for only the third time in the club’s history.
First half goals from Chris McCann and an absolutely stunning 35 yard free-kick from Wembley hero Ben Watson did the damage and although Cardiff dominated large sections of the game, Latics’ outstanding defence held firm, excellently marshaled by Ivan Ramis, brilliant after being restored to the starting eleven for the first time since the New Year’s Day victory at Derby County.
The hosts threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Latics in the final ten minutes as the 1,500 travelling Latics fans were on their feet to roar on the side and some of the defending in those final few minutes was absolutely heroic.
Latics were first to show before the break, a superb crossfield pass from Ben Watson releasing James Perch down the right hand side but his shot whistled beyond David Marshall’s far post.
They were forced to absorb a good deal of pressure from their hosts in the opening minutes but struck on 18 minutes. Jordi Gomez swung in a free kick from midway inside the Cardiff half after Jean Beausejour was bundled over by Kevin Theophile-Catherine. The ball was not cleared and Gomez himself won the ball back in the air on the left, took his time to pick out Chris McCann at the far post and the Irishman, operating at centre half for the day, side footed it home first time from about 12 yards out for a great finish.
Callum McManaman started showing flashes of the wizardry we have all grown to love so much and had Cardiff on the back foot but just as Latics had done, Cardiff struck somewhat against the run of play. Latics were not able to clear a ball properly in the area after an effort was blocked and the loose ball fell perfectly for Fraizer Campbell to smash home from 10 yards.
The pendulum definitely swung Cardiff’s way and Campbell had the chance to punish Latics further but placed his header over from five yards.
But for the third time in the half, the next goal went to the side defending. Juan Calas fouled Marc Antoine Fortune fully 35 yards out of Marshall’s goal as Latics swept forward on the break.
Watson then endeared himself to Latics fans even furthermore by rifling an absolute rocket into the far corner. A brilliant strike which is already a goal of the season contender.
Cala almost brought City level right on the stroke of half-time when his header was saved by Ali Al Habsi onto the post, then rebounded back off the Latics keeper for a corner.
Rosler reverted back to a straight back four for the second half, with McCann pushing up into midfield and McManaman was soon terrorizing his full back again, his looped cross looked to be heading for a goal kick before McCann retrieved it and Marshall was at full stretch to save.
Watson was replaced by Josh McEchran just prior to the hour mark as Rosler looks to increase his midfield options by giving the England Under 21 increased game time. Cardiff, for their part, introduced danger man Craig Noone to try and get back into the game and Rosler responded by replacing the tiring McManaman with James McClean and, with just over ten minutes remaining brought on Stephen Crainey for Gomez.
Ramis tried an audacious effort from his own half to relieve a bit of the pressure that Cardiff began exerting – notably through tricky on loan Manchester United winner Wilfred Zaha but Latics held firm.
When they did find a way through, Al Habsi was his normal acrobatic self behind them. He parried Mats Daehli’s curling effort over the bar, then was at full stretch to parry Noone’s 25 yard effort.
McLean forced a stunning save from Marshall on a rare late break for Latics, but it was only a temporary relief as Cardiff’s red army continued their waves of attack – the final whistle was greeted with the biggest roar of the day from the delighted Latics fans.