Wigan Athletic showed great resolve and application in overcoming an insipid Cardiff side to reach the last eight of the FA Cup. It is a remarkable achievement for a team that has played 41 matches this season, more than any other in the four divisions. Once again it was Ben Watson’s goal which was to prove the winner – this time through a rocket shot from thirty yards out.
Rosler had given Leon Barnett a well-deserved rest, having played in all but one game this season. His replacement was Ivan Ramis, who was to show Cardiff that they made a mistake in not signing him during the January transfer window. Roger Espinoza and Jordi Gomez came into midfield, making a foursome with Chris McCann and Ben Watson. Callum McManaman was brought in on the left flank, with Marc-Antoine Fortune up front.
Latics took the lead after 18 minutes when Jordi Gomez showed great resolve in winning the ball from Magnus Wolff Eikram and bustling his way past Kevin Theophile-Catherine on the edge of the penalty box. Gomez cut the ball back from the by-line with great precision to find Chris McCann who crisply hit the ball home.
Cardiff started to claw their way back into the game and Wilfried Zaha started to look dangerous. In the 27th minute Zaha broke into the penalty box and, although Ramis managed to block the ball, Frasier Campbell was to score an opportunist equalizer from the resulting melee.
Minutes later Zaha put in a lovely cross to the far post where Campbell eluded Emmerson Boyce, but put his header wide. Cardiff were soon to rue that lost opportunity in the 40th minute when Gomez tapped a free kick to Watson some 30 yards from goal. Cardiff put up a defensive wall of only two men and Watson showed his superb technique by hitting a rocket shot into the left hand corner of the net.
Ex-Sevilla defender Juan Cala headed the ball against the post when it looked easier to score shortly after, but Latics went into half time with their lead intact.
Cardiff came out showing more resolve in the second half, but their neater midfield play could not be converted into goals as the Wigan defence held firm.
Josh McEachran replaced Watson in the midfield holding role after 58 minutes. James McClean had replaced McManaman after 67 minutes, but most of the play was in the Wigan half. Stephen Crainey came on to bolster the defence after 78 minutes as Latics continued to be penned in their area through the Cardiff pressure. However, Ali Al-Habsi was on fine form and made good saves from Zaha, Noone and Cala and Latics held on for a deserved victory.
Wigan scored two well taken goals and defended with great resolution. Ramis came in for Barnett and showed an excellent understanding with Boyce in the centre of defence. With both Markus Holgersson and Thomas Rogne on the bench Latics are looking strong in that area.
Al-Habsi goes from strength to strength on his return from injury and is starting to look like the star he was a couple of years ago before the shoulder problem.
The midfielders worked hard, with Gomez playing a more advanced role. McCann showed once again what a good signing he has been, not only through his well taken goal, but also in his defensive cover.
McManaman, and McClean after him, looked lively but were often short of support as was Fortune who looked a particularly lone central striker.
Rosler has instilled a mental toughness into his squad and they are not afraid to grind out results if necessary. The defence has tightened up considerably.
After putting so much energy into this match there is a home game with Barnsley coming up on Tuesday. Rosler will once again have to shuffle his pack.
Ali Al Habsi: 8 – excellent throughout.
James Perch: 6 – put in another solid defensive shift at right back.
Ivan Ramis: 7 – a fine return by the classy Spaniard. Anticipated play expertly and excellent in his distribution.
Emmerson Boyce: 7 – marshalled his defence superbly, solid throughout.
Jean Beausejour: 6 – played a mainly defensive role. Left back is not his natural position, but played with determination.
Ben Watson: 7 – a cracking goal and a good performance until he went off after 58 minutes.
Chris McCann: 7 – a key player in Rosler’s squad. Did well to get into the box to take his goal. Went close to getting another goal in the second half when he got a foot to a long cross, forcing a good save from the keeper.
Roger Espinoza: 6 – worked as hard as always and deserves more opportunities in the starting lineup.
Jordi Gomez: 7 – worked hard and put through some nice passes. Showed determination in getting through physical challenges to set up the first goal. Latics’ main creative outlet.
Marc-Antoine Fortune: 5 – not his day.
Callum McManaman: 6 – worked hard, but could not break through.
Josh McEachran: – came on after 58 minutes. Looked comfortable in the midfield holding role.
James McClean: – tried hard. Had one good run when he cut in from the right to hit a rasping drive – but straight at goalkeeper Marshall.
Stephen Crainey: – came on for the final 12 minutes.