Ben Watson and Roberto Martinez
Wigan Athletic claimed the first major trophy in their 81-year history when Ben Watson’s last-minute goal won the FA Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley.
Roberto Martinez’s side produced a performance full of attacking intent and verve to fully deserve this historic win against firm pre-match favourites City, who had Pablo Zabaleta sent off six minutes from time.
Substitute Watson, who has missed much of the season after breaking his leg in November, sent Wigan’s fans into ecstasy with a near-post header from Shaun Maloney’s corner at the very moment the board went up to signal three minutes of stoppage time.
The goal was just reward for Wigan, whose drive and intensity was in sharp contrast to the desperately lacklustre display served up by City as last season’s Premier League champions end this campaign empty-handed.
It completed a miserable day for manager Roberto Mancini, which began with reports that was about to be sacked and replaced by Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini and ended with a defeat that left City’s hierarchy looking on stone-faced from the Royal Box as Wigan celebrated.
Opposite number Martinez is also at the centre of speculation about his future as he has been linked with the forthcoming managerial vacancy at Everton – and his stock will have risen markedly now he has the FA Cup against his name.
And when this final is remembered, the performance of Wigan’s Callum McManaman will be recalled alongside Watson’s goal after a magnificent, and close to unplayable, display of wing play which gave City defender Gael Clichy a harrowing afternoon.
It was also a moment of sheer joy for Wigan chairman Dave Whelan, who broke his leg playing for Blackburn Rovers in the 1960 FA Cup final against Wolves at Wembley. He led the team out, then watched in delight as they lifted the treasured trophy…
City, who had struggled for rhythm all afternoon, were reduced to 10 men with six minutes remaining when Zabaleta was dismissed. It was a simple decision for referee Andre Marriner when the Argentine, played into trouble by Barry’s careless pass, hauled down McManaman having earlier received a yellow card.
Then came the moment that will be recalled in Wigan forever. Watson escaped from Rodwell at the near post to meet Maloney’s corner and history was made.
I cannot muster sufficient praise for everyone associated with this stunning and well-deserved victory. From the geezer himself, Dave Whelan, down through Roberto Martinez and all the Wigan players – they outworked the posh opposition. The giant-killers got what they deserved, what they fought so very hard for.