Wigan shock Manchester City, earn spot in FA Cup semifinals

Wigan shocked Manchester City 2-1 in the FA Cup today to earn a berth against Arsenal in the semifinals –€“ and deal their second Cup upset in a row to the Citizens.

Goals from Jordi Gomez and James Perch staked the minnows to an early lead before a rampant City attack clawed a goal back through Samir Nasri, setting up a classic finish at the Etihad.

Hull will face Sheffield United, while Arsenal will play the Latics in the semifinals to be held on April 12 and 13.

Wigan famously beat City last year in the FA Cup final, stunning the Manchester giants and ending manager Roberto Mancini’s tenure with the club. Since then, the Latics have been relegated and changed managers — with former City star Uwe Rosler taking over for Roberto Martinez –€“ but on today’€™s evidence, City didn’€™t learn their lesson. For large stretches of this match, City simply weren’€™t in the game, looking as if their minds were still on their win in Wembley the week prior. And the Latics made them pay for again underestimating them.

From the start, Wigan took a grip on the proceedings, bossing the midfield. Playing a 4-5-1 designed to stifle City’s midfield creators, Wigan kept the Citizens at arm’€™s length for the majority of the first half, and the giants’ frustration was palpable. Samir Nasri and Costel Pantilimon were seen jawing at one another, and more than once the occasion threatened to boil over.

Gomez opened the scoring from the spot after 27 minutes after snake-bit defender Martin Demichelis committed another bad gaffe. Allowing Marc-Antoine Fortune to get goal-side of him, the big Argentine clumsily went in on him. Fortune, looking for the contact, left the leg out –€“ and Demichelis, who really by now should know better, took the bait. Anthony Taylor immediately pointed to the spot, ignoring Demichelis’€™ protests while a stone-face Manuel Pellegrini stared on.

City’s peril deepened after the break when Joleon Lescott lazily headed a clearance out — right to Callum McManaman. He stormed into the area, found James McArthur, and his cross blew through a City back line in chaos. Perch beat Gael Clichy to the ball and tucked it home near post. The Latics’€™ fans in the end exploded; Pellegrini exploded as well –€“ but on the touchline.

The City manager immediately sent in three subs, yanking Yaya Toure and sending out the storming James Milner and launching a 35-minute assault on Wigan’s net. Edin Dzeko’€™s header hit the post, agonizingly rebounding behind a waiting David Silva; Sergio Aguero’€™s point-blank shot was stifled by Scott Carson. But then, the floodgates opened.

Micah Richards nodded the ball down at the top of the area to set up Nasri beautifully; the Frenchman powered his strike through the crowd to the far post, giving Carson no chance at all. City got a bit of a break: Lescott was offside and interfering with the play and by rights the goal should have been chalked off – but no one could argue it was undeserved on the run of play.

Dzeko, Silva and Aguero would all come close as the minutes ticked off and Wigan were placed into a defensive crouch. Dzeko missed from close range over the bar; then he slipped the ball over Emerson Boyce and just wide. As the end neared, City’€™s attack became ever more frantic until finally, in the dying moments, it became clear that the home side would not find their breakthrough.

The result ended City’€™s admittedly unlikely attempt to collect four titles this season — they have won the League Cup and are likely going out this week at the hands of Barcelona in the Champions League — but it does mean they will now be able to renew their focus wholly on the Premier League title. With three games in hand on Chelsea, and this stinging defeat, we now have the potential for a grandstand end to the English season.

In today’s other FA Cup games, third-division Sheffield United reached the semifinals as well, downing Charlton Athletic 2-0 behind two second half goals from Ryan Flynn and John Bradford. With the win, the Blades became the very first League One side to reach the last four of England’€™s most prestigious Cup tournament since Wycombe Wanderers accomplished the feat in 2001. The Steel City side has become the fairytale team of this Cup, knocking out top-tier sides Aston Villa and Fulham en route to Wembley.

Hull crushed Sunderland 3-0 to earn their first berth in the FA Cup semis since 1930 behind a second-half onslaught that saw the Tigers score three times in nine minutes. Curtis Davies, David Meyler and Matty Fryatt all scored two sweep the Black Cats out of the competition. Meyler pointedly celebrated his winner by racing over and head-butting the corner flag; he of course had been the victim of a head-butt last weekend from Newcastle manager Alan Pardew. American striker Jozy Altidore, challenged pre-game by Sunderland manager Gus Poyet to impress, was not even in the game-day lineup.