Manchester City entered the week of Feb. 19 preparing to confront the biggest obstacle yet on its quest for a historic quadruple. Before it could even arrive at that obstacle, the quest ended.
City crashed out of the FA Cup on Monday with a stunning 1-0 loss to third-tier Wigan, its first elimination from any competition this season.
Even after Fabian Delph’s controversial late-first-half red card, City had around 80 percent possession and the majority of the game’s chances. But an inexplicable gaffe from substitute Kyle Walker released Will Grigg in on goal, and the Northern Irish cult hero punished the heavily favored Citizens:
WIGAN LEAD AGAINST MAN CITY! WILL GRIGG'S ON FIRE! https://t.co/SqepkNRKlN
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 19, 2018
Its third loss was the most shocking and the most consequential. When the final whistle blew, Wigan fans stormed the pitch, as much in celebration as in disbelief. They ran around aimlessly. They rode on one another’s shoulders. They mobbed players. They took selfies with them.
Los de Pep jugaron todo el 2T con 10 por expulsión de Fabian Delph
El Wigan jugará 4tos de final vs Southampton.. locura en el festejo! pic.twitter.com/UpDP2QuuUu
— Kary Correa (@KaryCorrea) February 19, 2018
These are the scenes that the biggest upset of the English season calls for. Teams such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Napoli have tried to disrupt City’s dominant campaign. None could. And now the team currently sitting 47th in English football’s pyramid has.
It needed a few freak occurrences. After almost 45 minutes of City control, Delph flew recklessly into a challenge:
— Ethan MUFC Devil's (@EthanMUFC24) February 19, 2018
Referee Anthony Taylor initially pulled out a yellow card. Then he pocketed it and reached for his red. Delph was off, the game suddenly had added intrigue, and Guardiola fumed:
The red didn’t change much. But Walker’s lack of awareness with 12 minutes remaining did. It ultimately condemned the visitors to defeat.
City’s 16-point lead in the Premier League and its progression in cup competitions had prompted talk that Guardiola’s team could become the first in the history of English football to win all four top-tier competitions. The talk was always slightly premature. But with every victory, it became a tad less so.
Sunday’s League Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley was supposed to be the next big test. Had City won it, it would have locked up two of the four trophies. It has already effectively advanced to the Champions League quarterfinals. And it had its path paved to the FA Cup semis with Southampton up next.
Or so many thought. So many assumed. But not Wigan.
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