When Jordi Gomez curled in a beautiful effort to make it 3-0 to Wigan in their FA Cup quarter-final away at Everton, it felt like one of those extraordinary moments that won’t be forgotten by any neutral.
Here is a side that were torn apart by Liverpool last weekend in the Premier League, so much so that two teammates, Emmerson Boyce and James McArthur, had to be separated from having a quick bout of boxing on the pitch.
On Saturday, they landed the knockout blow in spectacular style, with three quickfire goals in four minutes to reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup for the first time in their history.
Wigan’s recent journey has been incredible. 20 years ago, they were relegated into the fourth tier of English football. Now, they will be heading to Wembley for the first time since play-off heartache against Gillingham in 2000.
While a lot will be written about Everton’s horror day, and the calamitous mistakes made for the goals, a lot of praise should be given to the way Roberto Martinez set his team up for the trip to Merseyside. Martinez has opted throughout the majority of the season to go with three at the back, and two wingers supporting either Arouna Kone or Franco di Santo through the middle.
On Saturday, he had the benefit of having Antolin Alcaraz back for the first time since late August. The last time Alcaraz had been seen in a Wigan shirt, he was dismissed in a 4-1 Capital One Cup second round success away at Nottingham Forest. He then went on international duty with Paraguay and got injured whilst with his country, but his return to fitness will make Wigan stronger for the run-in.
The Latics had chances to take the lead early on, and made the most of the running. Shaun Maloney was desperately unlucky to strike a post, whilst Kone headed over the bar from a vicious Maloney cross, and Jan Mucha was at full stretch to deny McCarthy.
The opening goal came from a corner. The presence of Maynor Figueroa in the box was forgotten by the hosts, and he earnt himself a free header to power Martinez’s outfit into a deserved lead.
Whilst Phil Neville’s backpass for the second was criminal, boyhood Everton fan Callum McManaman still had plenty to do, and outran Sylvain Distin to coolly beat Mucha and double the lead just 60 seconds later.
Kone was a pest all day, and Johnny Heitinga couldn’t handle the Ivoirian’s hold-up play. It was his pass that set-up Gomez for his precise strike, and put the tie beyond Everton.
After 33 minutes, some home supporters walked out of the ground, probably totally stunned by what they had witnessed.
The trip to Wembley will be a momentous day out for the Wigan supporters, the players and chairman Dave Whelan. However, it was the smart tactics of Martinez that should take the greatest acclaim for the destruction of a handy top six Premier League side.
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