Wigan continue to defy the odds in their attempt to retain the FA Cup with a 2-1 victory at Premier League Cardiff City.
Two quality strikes by Chris McCann and FA Cup final goal scorer Ben Watson took Latics into the quarter finals despite Frazier Campbell’s reply for the Bluebirds.
The Latics line-up contained six players from the squad which famously lifted the trophy in May. Ali Al Habsi, Emmerson Boyce, Ben Watson, Roger Espinoza, Jordi Gomez and Callum McManaman all had a prominent place to play in this accomplished performance.
Latics will be hoping for a repeat result of the final when they face Manchester City in the last eight of the competition on March 8th or 9th at the Etihad Stadium.
Wigan had an early opportunity to take control when Ben Watson’s cross field pass found James Perch on the edge of the Cardiff area but the former Newcastle United man miscued his shot wide of the target.
The Bluebirds responded with an early spell of pressure but it was the away team which took the lead on 18 minutes. Jordi Gomez expertly pulled the ball back from the by line for McCann, whose excellent side foot finish from 12 yards beat Cardiff keeper David Marshall.
Wigan looked comfortable against higher league opposition but Cardiff drew level on 27 minutes when Manchester United loan player Wilfried Zaha jinked into the area and the ball fell to Campbell who drove a left-foot strike past an unsighted Al Habsi.
Cardiff were now in the ascendancy but against the run of play, Wigan grabbed back control of the game. Watson stepped up 35 yards from goal and powered his free kick past the Cardiff keeper after the ball had been rolled into his path by Gomez.
The home team tried to respond and Cala looked set to level for Cardiff just before the interval but his header from a yard out hit the post.
Cardiff continued to press in the second period but Wigan always looked dangerous on the break.
Rösler made early substitutions with Watson replaced by Josh McEachran on the hour mark. Soon afterwards McManaman, who still doesn’t look fully fit, was replaced by James McClean and, in the final ten minutes Stephen Crainey came on for Gomez.
Cardiff were dominating possession but failing to threaten the Latics rearguard until the final ten minutes when Al Habsi had to be at his best to tip over Mats Daehli’s curling effort, then dive at full stretch to save substitute Noone’s 25 yard shot.
McCann almost managed to lob over Marshall at the back post during a Latics counter attack.
Lone striker Marc-Antoine Fortune had worked tirelessly upfront and the Latics midfield and defence held firm despite the home team’s second half territorial dominance.
For Wigan watchers this FA Cup victory over Cardiff was not a major surprise. The team have been in a rich vein of form since Rösler took over and the Bluebirds are teetering on the brink of a quick return to the Championship.
Rösler’s impact on team matters has been exceptional. Tactics, organisation, fitness, loan signings and team selections have all improved and the desire, team spirit and determination to win are for all to see.
Rösler will now be relishing a return to his former club in the FA Cup, where he was a fans’ favourite as a player between 1994 and 1998, but it will be the German’s biggest managerial challenge yet.
Manchester City will once again be massive favourites to win through, but we all know what happened in last year’s final, don’t we?