WIGAN reached the FA Cup final for the first time against the backdrop of scenes of violence from some Millwall fans.
Scorers: Wigan: Maloney (25), McManaman (78)
Goals from Shaun Maloney and Callum McManaman either side of the interval were enough to seal a meeting with either Manchester City or Chelsea for Wigan, just 35 years after they were elected into the Football League.
On the pitch, there was no doubting the Latics were the more cultured outfit and, in Maloney, had the game’s stand-out player.
Arouna Kone created the Scot’s goal with a neat turn just inside the Millwall half followed by a bustling run that attracted too many defenders. Maloney intelligently dropped into space and the Ivorian found him, allowing the Scot to sweep home from eight yards.
McManaman’s clincher came after Jordi Gomez slid an excellent pass through and the youngster kept his nerve to round David Forde before slipping the ball into an empty net to add another significant milestone to Wigan’s remarkable journey.
Maloney, named man of the match, had never progressed beyond the third round of the competition before this season and said he would need time to appreciate the achievement. He added: “It’s a massive occasion for us and it will probably sink in in the next couple of days what exactly lies ahead.”
Wigan chairman Dave Whelan had his playing career ended when he broke his leg in the 1960 FA Cup final – a match his Blackburn side went on to lose 3-0 to Wolves.
Maloney went on: “The chairman has spoken publicly about what it means to him and the whole club – it’s a massive thing.”
Admitting the game had been far from easy, he added: “The first half we controlled but in the second half Millwall pinned us right back and it felt tough until the second goal.”
Wigan are still in the relegation scrap at the foot of the Premier League, and while the FA Cup is a nice distraction, they will need to focus attention on the league in the coming weeks in order to avoid the drop.
“If we play like we did today we’ll have a real chance,” Maloney added.
Latics captain Emmerson Boyce said: “It’s amazing, a dream come true for the club and the fans.
“I want to say thank you too to the chairman... there are too many people to say thank you to. I can’t wait for the final now. The chairman has been a long time waiting for this too.
“The manager has been excellent. The whole team has been excellent.”
On-loan Paul Scharner, who played in the League Cup final during his first stint at Wigan, added: “It’s unbelievable. We are in the final.
“The chairman deserves it most, and the supporters.
“In the second half they were trying to get an equaliser but we kept a clean sheet and I’m so happy to reach the final.”
Wigan will return to Wembley on May 11 to play either Chelsea or Manchester City – who meet today – but Scharner is not concerned who they face next.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “The final is always tough and both teams are very strong.”
Millwall manager Kenny Jackett was proud of his players and their FA Cup campaign overall, but admitted Wigan were too strong.
“I felt Wigan were good,” he said. “We had a very good 20-minute spell in the second half and had them on the back foot, their keeper made some good saves but we needed a goal during that period to build on.
“It didn’t happen, they scored another on the break and that killed the game off.”
Ten fans were arrested after the disorder in the Millwall supporters’ area. And Whelan expressed his bewilderment at disgraceful scenes of violence
The repeated eruptions of fighting left some fans bloodied and younger ones in tears – scenes that will not do anything for the image of the south London club, or the Football Association.
Whelan said afterwards: “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 Millwall, Millwall, Millwall... straight through. But don’t fight each other. I couldn’t understand that.”