FA Cup: Southampton defeat Wigan Athletic 2 – 0

Mark Hughes celebrates with Southampton players
Mark Hughes celebrates with Southampton players

Mark Hughes called Southampton’s win over Wigan “a statement of intent” as they reached the FA Cup semi-finals in his first game in charge.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg fired in from a second-half corner, shortly after Christian Walton had saved his header.

Wigan’s keeper then made an outstanding save from Manolo Gabbiadini’s penalty after Dan Burn had brought down the striker.

Cedric Soares slotted past Walton to confirm the win in stoppage time.

“It was an important day for the players today,” said Hughes. “I have been really impressed with the quality of the talent I have.”

The former Stoke boss said his players still “have work to do” as they fight to stay in the Premier League but added that they would enjoy the victory.

It was a good start for Hughes, who replaced Mauricio Pellegrino as Southampton boss this week after he was sacked with the club one point above the Premier League relegation zone.

He said his side “stood up to Wigan” after the League One promotion contenders created a number of chances throughout the game.

Shortly before Cedric’s goal – like Hojbjerg’s, his first for the club – Paul Cook’s side almost grabbed an equaliser through Noel Hunt, whose sidefoot volley was headed over the bar by Southampton defender Jack Stephens.

Wigan could have scored in the first half too as Gary Roberts, Will Grigg and Cheyenne Dunkley all came close.

Roberts’ effort looped over the bar after Dunkley almost poked home Burn’s deflected strike in an exciting half full of chances.

Southampton had the upper hand after the break, though, as they booked a place in the last four for the first time since 2003.

Wigan eliminated three Premier League teams on route to the quarter-finals, ending Manchester City’s hopes of a clean sweep of trophies with a stunning upset in their fifth-round tie after also knocking out Bournemouth and West Ham.

The Latics are chasing the League One title and hope to achieve automatic promotion to the Championship.

Encouragement for Hughes

Southampton may be in the relegation zone, with just one win in 17 Premier League games, but could yet end the season by winning the FA Cup for the first time since 1976.

And there was plenty for new boss Hughes to be encouraged about as his side reached the semi-finals.

He set his team out to attack – naming two forwards in Gabbiadini and Guido Carrillo – and it paid off as the Saints created a number of chances, particularly in the second half, when they were much more direct.

Gabbiadini should have scored on at least one occasion – and that lack of ruthlessness will be one frustration for Hughes.

But the Italian found himself in the right positions and did well to earn the penalty.

Brave Wigan go out fighting

Wigan created a number of first-half chances as they produced another terrific performance against a Premier League side.

Roberts’ looping strike was arguably their best opening, while Michael Jacobs should have slipped a pass to Gavin Massey after a great run later in the half – instead seeing his shot blocked.

The Latics were left to rue their missed chances when Southampton came out in the second half with more intensity and urgency.

Nathan Byrne’s misplaced pass gifted Gabbiadini a golden opportunity to break the deadlock – only to be denied by Walton, who had an outstanding game in goal for Wigan.

That error was an isolated moment, though, as Wigan defended with solidity and attacked with bravery throughout, and were given hearty and deserved applause as they left the field at the end.

Based on their performances in the competition, the Latics have more than enough in the tank to secure promotion and can be considered League One title contenders.

‘We will enjoy this moment’

Wigan manager Paul Cook: “You can’t ask for any more from your players. The first half, we were excellent. We expected that response from Southampton and we wish them well in the semi-finals. We were playing some great players and in the end their quality came through.

“The goalkeeper was outstanding. He works very hard and gets his rewards. I’d like to see Noel Hunt’s chance again. That felt like a key moment and most of those seemed to go to Southampton today.”

Southampton manager Mark Hughes: “It was an important day for the players today. I have been really impressed with the quality of the talent I have. They have lost a bit of confidence recently but they are good players.

“We stood up to Wigan. It was a statement of intent and a start. We have work to do in the Premier League, but we will enjoy this moment.

“We did not create enough in the first half, but we were resolute throughout and made the right decisions in the key moments.”

Penalty woes for Gabbiadini – the best of the stats

  • Southampton have reached the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time since the 2002-03 season, when they lost the final to Arsenal.
  • Mark Hughes has progressed from all three of his FA Cup quarter-finals as a manager (also 2004-05 and 2006-07 with Blackburn Rovers).
  • Southampton won away from home by more than one goal for the first time since a 4-0 victory over Sunderland in February 2017.
  • This was only Wigan’s second home defeat in their past 14 matches at the DW Stadium in all competitions (W8 D4).
  • Both Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (54th appearance) and Cedric Soares (88th) scored their first Southampton goals in this match.
  • Southampton have now progressed from 19 of their past 20 FA Cup ties against sides from a lower division, including each of their last 10.
  • Dusan Tadic has assisted 32 goals in all competitions for Southampton – 12 more than any other player since his debut in August 2014.
  • Saints have failed to score with four of their last seven penalties in all competitions, with two of those failed attempts taken by Manolo Gabbiadini.

Man of the match was Christian Walton of Wigan.

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