A day of history for Wigan Athletic, who will play in the FA Cup final next month and quite possibly in the Europa League next season, was marred by the first serious outbreak of hooliganism at the new Wembley, as Millwall supporters were involved in a long period of fighting at one end of the ground and 10 fans were arrested. The unpleasant scenes followed the goal that Callum McManaman scored in the 77th minute to add to Shaun Maloney's; two pieces of quality that Millwall could never match.
The fighting continued for some time with stewards and police reluctant to intervene. Police later said 11 arrests were made and four of their officers suffered minor injuries, while the Football Association launched an immediate enquiry.
Alex Horne, general secretary of the FA, said: "We will look to ensure those involved are identified and we would call for criminal charges and a football banning order to be brought against them.The FA deplores the scenes which have taken place today, which are unacceptable."
Millwall have pledged to identify and ban the thugs. Andy Ambler, the club's chief executive, said: "Anyone associated with our club found guilty of violent behaviour will be banned indefinitely from Millwall matches in addition to any punishment they receive from the authorities."
Chairman John Berylson, who flew in from the United States for the game, said: "There are always a few idiots. That's not our fan-base and we don't know who they are. We will be investigating."
Kenny Jackett, Millwall's manager, was equally dismayed, saying: "It's disappointing. I know how hard the directors have worked to give the club a good image in recent years. It has no part in football."
Although the disturbances were confined to Millwall's end, Wigan's manager Roberto Martinez, whose team will face Manchester City or Chelsea in the final next month, admitted they took the shine off his side's victory. He said: "It's a real shame because the game on the pitch was a great advert for the competition. It is a small minority but that leaves a bad taste."
His chairman, Dave Whelan, added: "I can't understand why the Millwall fans would fight each other. I understand if they want to fall out with the visiting team, but why would they fall out amongst themselves? It just gives football a very, very poor reputation. We know Millwall are a tough club, their team's tough to play, the supporters are straight through. But don't fight each other."
Apart from the damage to the Millwall's improving reputation, the concern is now the same as Wigan's: to ensure that a memorable Cup season does not end in relegation. This morning Martinez's team still sit in the bottom three of the Premier League and Millwall have slipped to 18th place in the Championship.
As for the game, the top-flight side forced five corners in the first 20 minutes after settling into their neat passing game and soon followed with an opening goal. It was cleverly executed as Arouna Koné took the ball down on the halfway line and set off, crossing on the run for Maloney to hit a side-foot volley in first time.
By half-time his team could easily have been further ahead, although the fact that they were not gave heart to the Championship side. David Forde, the Irish goalkeeper, twice had to beat out shots from distance, first from McManaman and closer to the interval from Jordi Gomez.
With many spectators as usual at Wembley slow to drift back after the interval, the start of the second half was played out in front of even more empty seats than the first period. Wigan having sold around 21,000 of their 31,000 allocation, the attendance was the smallest for a semi-final here since just over 56,000 watched Manchester United play Oldham in 1994. There was a chance to double the lead when McManaman beat two men on the byline but went for glory instead of picking out Koné.
A spell of real pressure from Millwall followed with Paul Scharner only just beating Andy Keogh to Alan Dunne's low cross and Mark Beevers seeing his header deflected off Scharner and away for a corner.
Further hope was then dashed as Wigan broke from a Millwall corner. Maloney led it and fed Gomez; he then waited for McManaman, who drifted wide of the goalkeeper's lunge for a neat finish.
Millwall had nothing left and it was Whelan who took the plaudits in the Royal Box. There was talk that Whelan, who broke a leg in the 1960 final, would lead the team out, but nobody does in semi-finals. "It's an incredible achievement," said Martinez. "Our chairman is just unique." So is the continuing Wigan story.
Wigan (3-5-2): Al Habsi; Scharner, Alcaraz, Figueroa; Boyce, McCarthy, Gomez, Maloney, Beausejour (McArthur, 60); McManaman (Henriquez, 89), Koné.
Millwall (4-5-1): Forde; Dunne, Shittu, Beevers, Lowry; Henry, Abdou (Trotter, 72), Smith (Hulse, 67), St Ledger, Taylor; Keogh (Batt, 89).
Referee Michael Oliver.
Man of the match Maloney (Wigan).
Match rating 7/10.Reuse content