A triumphant Uwe Rösler hailed his Wigan Athletic players and said they deserved the credit after they stunned Manchester City in the FA Cup again, winning 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium to set up a semi-final against Arsenal next month, while Manuel Pellegrini effectively accused his players of complacency.
Wigan beat City 1-0 in last year's final, yet few people gave them a chance of causing another upset, especially not at a stadium where City have scored goals for fun this season. City, having secured the Capital One Cup with last Sunday's 3-1 victory over Sunderland, were going for a domestic treble, only to be undone by their own lethargy and Wigan's refusal to let go of the trophy they won in such style last May. Wigan are seventh in the Championship but deserved their victory, which they earned with goals in either half from Jordi Gómez and James Perch.
"I think it's the worst first half we've had in the year because we didn't have the pace to play against a team that is in a good moment," said Pellegrini. "They won five games in a row so we knew before the match we are going to play a difficult team. Maybe we thought that was not going to be so difficult and when we reacted it was too late."
Rösler, who arrived from Brentford in December after Owen Coyle was sacked, was not fazed by facing City, whom he represented for four years as a player in the mid-90s. He dedicated the win to Ben Watson, who was the hero at Wembley last year but was absent on Sunday because of a broken leg.
Rösler, asked how he was feeling, said: "Drained. Happy. I am very happy for my players and staff and for Ben Watson, because he was a big incentive for us to do well for him."
Rösler said that he took inspiration from the way that Roberto Martínez, who was in charge of Wigan at the time, approached the final last year. "Last season was an unbelievable achievement from Roberto and his men to win the FA Cup and put Wigan on the map worldwide," Rösler said. "But to follow that up and reach the semi-final of the FA Cup is equally strong.
"I studied Roberto's tactics. He put out a very brave gameplan. I saw the league game where City won in the last five minutes 1-0 and Roberto's team played periods to perfection.
"We tried to replicate part of it but bringing our own identity, pressing and counterattacking. I felt in the first half we surprised Manchester City because a lot of teams show Manchester City respect deservedly. Our only chance was to keep the ball in tight areas."
Rösler heard before kick-off that Wigan would play Arsenal if they won but he did not let that affect him. "I knew about the draw before the game but that didn't stop my players putting effort in," he said. "I never thought somebody would achieve that again. The players deserve all the credit. If you ask a young manager, who has a chance to climb up the ladder, a semi-final at Wembley against Arsenal – of course you take it."
Wigan were tenacious throughout. They took the lead through Gómez's penalty, doubled it through Perch and then held on after Samir Nasri's goal in the 68th minute, which Rösler felt should have been disallowed for offside. Despite a late City onslaught, Wigan's togetherness was emphasised by a wonderful saving challenge by Emmerson Boyce to deny Edin Dzeko an equaliser.
"That tackle was a match-winning, decisive moment for us," Rösler said. "That has shown the desire and willpower we have shown today. I can only take my hat off. Emmerson is a symbol of that, not only today, but since I worked in the club."
For Pellegrini, the defeat was hard to explain and he faces a difficult task to raise City's spirits before the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie against Barcelona on Wednesday. City trail 2-0 from the first leg and will need a vast improvement if they are to overhaul that deficit at Camp Nou.
Pellegrini did attempt to put a positive spin on the defeat. "Winning always gives you confidence but maybe a game like this can bring a reaction to the team," he said.