The Ped Cup Report Wigan Athletic 1-0 City
I'm sure that when Pep Guardiola first declared that to capture the quadruple was impossible, he had visions of sliding out of the Champions League at the hands of one of the tournament's giants. He would not have envisaged that his thoroughbred charges would surrender at the hands of City's perennial party poopers Wigan Athletic from League One.
But that is precisely what played out at the DW Stadium as Paul Cook's team achieved what less than a handful have done this season - keep City to NIL - and become only the third side to gain a victory over a team widely hailed as invincible.
Guardiola, for me, walked into the same trap as had Pocchetino the night before with Spurs. He fielded a starting eleven that "would do the job" but didn't really take account of the hunger of the opposition to seek to claim a scalp that looks beyond most opponents in the Premier League.
Although Bravo has improved considerably since Ederson joined City, the back four of Danilo, Laporte, Stones and Delph, always looked a bit too forward thinking against a team from the lower echelons. In front, he decided to leave out De Bruyne, the mastermind and masterclass behind so many of City's victories this season, but he did select the return-from-injury brigade of David Silva and Sane. Maybe the hurly-burly of a full-bloodied cup tie was a little step too far.
City survived a couple of early scares caused by the lack of cohesion in the middle of the back four and Bravo was forced into an important save. After that it looked to be business as usual as City piled on the possession stats, but found the pie-men very resistant in guarding their goal.
It was a night when nothing went right for City in the opposition's final third and to an extent City had only themselves to blame. There appeared, for the first time, to be an air of confidence that bordered upon complacency as if City didn't believe that a League One outfit would be able to live with them out on the field. To an extent they were correct, but Wigan played through the 15- minute spells, changed their shape a couple of times, clung on to a 0-0 scoreline before literally helping themselves to a winning goal ten minutes from time.
The first half was a case of "if only's". Laporte should've scored in the early stages but didn't react quickly enough. Aguero couldn't make the most of a free header, nor a typical shot from a place we would expect him to score from. Bernardo, Fernandinho and Gundogan all bear reports of "could do better" as their efforts went adrift and then with a two-on-one in the box, Aguero scorned a pass to Sane in front of an open goal, shot himself and found the keeper to be just as good.
Wigan defended desperately and on occasion slightly outside the laws of the game but the referee Timperley Taylor, Stretford extrordinario, gave City nothing. A lean "tackle" that could have broken someone's leg went unseen and unadmonished on three minutes and then with the seconds ticking down to half time, for some ridiculous reason Delph launched himself into a tackle that was unnecessary, caught the opponent and gave the Ridiculous Red Ref a decision to make. At first, he pulled out a yellow card, wrote Delph's name on it and that looked to be that. Then for some reason he went into his top pocket and pulled out a red card to change the landscape for the rest of the evening.
City had to adjust for the second half and sacrificed Sane for Walker shunting Danilo out to left back. The shortening of the City team didn't make much difference as City bombarded the Wigan penalty area but all the mortar fire missed the target. Wigan never looked like getting a goal. That was until Walker stepped up hoping to catch Roberts offside only to see the ball run though to the man with the unfortunate Malapropism for a name, Grigg, to chase through a gap created by Stones' lack of concentration and head off to goal. Grigg cleverly took the ball across the chaser, Stones, who couldn't afford a foul, drew Bravo and drilled it into the bottom corner to elicit scenes the like of which have probably never been witnessed before at this stadium.
With De Bruyne having been introduced after 65 minutes, City's attacking focus had changed but there was a lack of quality support for him, especially as Sane had already been removed. Wigan absorbed everything City threw at them, defended for their lives and crept away with the spoils despite City having 29 shots on goal and 82% possession.
Needless to say, this sparked off a field invasion at the end, which turned ugly when Aguero found himself spat at and surrounded by a dangerous-looking number of pie-eaters and had to be restrained from defending himself.
City fans, too, were not entirely innocent as they confronted Police and Stewards at their end of the stadium.
But you cannot restart the clock and this game, that should be remembered for a great goal by Grigg and an unexpected victory for Wigan, will be better remembered for a change-of-mind sending off of Delph, the half-time scrap between Guardiola and Cook and ugly scenes at the end of the match.
It is now a question as to whether this match takes the quadruple monkey of the players backs and they can now see if they can win a treble, or whether it is the prelude to an unexpected end to the season, where they could lose the League Cup Final and lose at the Emirates next week to offer the chasing pack a light that is slightly greener than it has been. Hopefully, with David Silva and Sane one week closer to complete fitness, there will be enough in the tank to enable City to collect their first pot of the season and get back onto the blue brick road.
This was a sad end to the dream, but one in which Paul Cook was very magnanimous in victory, wishing City all the best in their future ventures as in his words, they are one of the best teams in world football. His lowly team had done its town and itself proud in beating Pep's expensively assembled outfit who lost direction a bit on this occasion.
So we're off to Wembley at the weekend to renew hostilities with the Ashburton Grove Bottling Factory and hoping they live up to that annotation.
For Guardiola, he will reflect on why he didn't put on De Bruyne from the start, try to get a couple of goals ahead and then take him off. He will need all his big guns firing on all cylinders at Wembley. For Aguero this was a night of blanks. Genius one week, almost absent the next.