Four minutes before the interval yesterday the visiting supporters were greeting every Wigan touch with an olé and chanting – with a certain disbelief, no doubt – "We want four". They had three already, scored within the space of three minutes, and held on to that lead comfortably to reach the first FA Cup semi-final in their 81-year history.
It was deserved reward for a composed and tactically mature performance that made a nonsense of the 21-point gap between the teams in the Premier League. The foundations were a tight back three who barely allowed anything through to their reserve goalkeeper, the Spaniard Joel Robles, and two enterprising wing-backs. Wigan were particularly effective down the left through Jean Beausejour and Shaun Maloney, combining to give Seamus Coleman and Phil Neville a harrowing time.
For the home team, finalists and beaten semi-finalists in the past four years, it was a dreadful day after having smelled Wembley when they were favoured with a home draw for the first time this season.
After sending on Victor Anichebe as a second striker at half-time in place of their captain, Neville, whose error cost the second goal, they responded only briefly and received even more boos at full-time than they had at the interval.
It summed up the prevailing frustration that an invitation to show "appreciation" for Marouane Fellaini when he was susbstituted after 66 minutes was met with widespread abuse. The Belgian stomped off down the tunnel, just one of many underperformers on a proud club's biggest day of the season.
The country's third longest-serving manager, David Moyes, about to celebrate 11 years at Everton without having signed any contract beyond this summer, must have been left wondering how much more he can achieve without moving on.
Naturally he was not looking that far ahead after the game, saying only: "Wigan played well on the day and we didn't. They were the better team. We've not had many of those days this season. I feel disappointed for everybody as we just never really got going."
For Wigan, pride and satisfaction will be tempered only by concern that a Wembley semi-final in the middle of next month does not distract from the fundamental business of staying in the Premier League. Because relegation rivals Reading and Aston Villa played each other yesterday, they were always going to drop back into the bottom three; Roberto Martinez's reaction was to insist that it will merely make all his players even keener to take part in what he called the "10 cup finals" remaining – which may yet prove good practice for the real one.
"For us to go to Wembley is a historic moment," he said, adding his delight for the club chairman, Dave Whelan, who broke his leg in the 1960 final as his Blackburn Rovers side lost 3-0 to Wolves. Even Whelan, who has pumped millions into helping the club from the Third Division to eight years at the highest level, could hardly have expected to win here by the same score, though he did reveal: "I had a dream this week that we would beat Everton and meet Blackburn in the semi-final at Wembley. That would fulfil my dreams and if we can win the Cup, it is something that Wigan cannot even contemplate." He even promised Martinez a rise, as long as Wigan stay up and reach the final.
Everyone in the visiting ranks must have sensed from early on here that they were on to something good at a ground where they had only previously won once, eight years ago. Ten minutes in, the excellent Maloney cut in from the left and drove a shot against the far post with Jan Mucha, standing in for the injured Tim Howard, a spectator. Aruna Kone headed a good chance over the bar, Mucha pushed James McCarthy's 25-yarder round the post and from the resulting corner the dam burst.
First Maynor Figueroa took advantage of poor marking to head in; in the next minute Neville's misplaced pass in the vague direction of Sylvain Distin was picked up by Callum McManaman, a lifelong Evertonian, who ran on to chip neatly across Mucha; and with the disbelief now being shared by everyone in the ground, Kone supplied Gomez for another delightful finish, curled just inside a post.
The home side really needed to retrieve a goal before half-time but were never close, and after quickly falling away following a brief spell of pressure at the start of the second half they lost the crowd completely. Robles, once the understudy to David de Gea at Atletico Madrid, remained untroubled until making a fine save from Leon Osman in added time, Coleman heading the rebound weakly wide to sum up Everton's wretched day. "It was a complete performance and a special day for the fans of Wigan Athletic," Martinez said. Nobody, friend or foe, seemed inclined to disagree.
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