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Wigan 1 - 2 Chelsea


BlueLion.

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Wigan Athletic 1 - 2 Chelsea F.C.

Saturday 26 January 2008, FA Cup, Fourth Round, JJB Stadium, Wigan

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Nicolas Anelka scored his first Chelsea goal before setting up Shaun Wright-Phillips to earn progression in the FA Cup.


The defending champions of the competition made a bright start but were forced to wait until Anelka broke the deadlock on the fifty-minute mark with an astute volley. He later broke free and found the unmarked Wright-Phillips who slotted home coolly. Despite a brief comeback from Wigan and a fantastic volley from Antoine Sibierski, Chelsea held out for the win which sees them into the last sixteen of the competition. The game might have been so much different if Marcus Bent's last-gasp volley had gone in, but Chelsea were thankful as the ball span out of play off of the crossbar.

Whilst Chelsea were effective in grinding down their opposition once again, Wigan demonstrated the tenacity which has earned them many admirers in the Premier League as they continued to apply pressure on an impressive Chelsea defence. Both teams fielded arguably their strongest starting elevens, as Avram Grant selected an unchanged side to the one that booked a place in the League Cup final in midweek. In the absence of Michael Ballack, Claude Makelele captained Chelsea on his 200th appearance for the team. Joe Cole, operating on the right of the front three which also featured French duo Florent Malouda and Anelka, also celebrated the same milestone in his Chelsea career. Wigan, who sold Denny Landzaat to Feyenoord in midweek, were greatly boosted with the return to fitness of Emile Heskey. Former Chelsea full-back Mario Melchiot captained the side.

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Chelsea were the fastest out of the starting blocks and could have gone ahead within a minute. Good possession play between Alex and Carvalho allowed the Portuguese centre-half to launch a cutting through-ball to Makelele, who spread the ball to Steven Sidwell. The ex-Reading midfielder squared to Joe Cole, whose powerful effort was dragged wide of the goal. Whilst not a clear-cut opportunity, it was a chance and a warning to Wigan that the West London outfit did not fancy a replay.

Play was greatly affected by the poor state of the pitch. Home to the Wigan Warriors Rugby League team, the ground was covered in potholes, making short passing difficult for both sides. Furthermore, the grass had been scarred by the pitch heating equipment, resulting in a long stripe where the earth had decayed. Covered in sand prior to the game, both teams did their best to avoid playing through the centre of the park.

Both teams were opting for the aerial route because of this stripe, and it was Emile Heskey who was faring the better. With twenty minutes played, he brought down a long ball from Wigan goalkeeper Chris Kirkland, before knocking it into the path of Marcus Bent. The big striker shaped up to shoot but the ball was stolen off his toe by Wayne Bridge who reacted splendidly to poke the ball out of play for a corner. Chelsea's only major attacking outlet was the energy and work-rate of Cole, who, along with Wright-Phillips, was finding much joy against Kevin Kilbane on the far right.

The second half was much more eventful, and once more it was the visiting side who were in the ascendancy. The excellent Steven Sidwell won the ball in midfield before sending Belletti on a run. The Brazilian, encouraged to shoot after his long range goals against Tottenham and the team's current opposition earlier in the season, instead chipped a delightful ball up field for Anelka to chase. The Frenchman showed excellent pace and stole in on Kirkland to volley the ball into the back of the net, much to the players' jubilation. The Chelsea fans were in good voice throughout the game but were now encouraged more so.

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Shortly after Wright-Phillips frustrated the away support as he shot wide. The England man made an excellent run from deep but his end product was a tame effort which was never going to trouble the Wigan 'keeper Kirkland. But Wigan were turning up the pressure, as Heskey made himself half a yard. On his favoured right foot he went fast Alex, but he effort from a tight angle was blocked by the legs of Petr Cech who besides making a handful of catches and a simple save from Wigan substitute Jason Koumas, had had very little to do.

But moments later, Cech's ball up field was chased down by Anelka. Wigan's lack of numbers at the back was underlined when the Frenchman outmuscled Kilbane before racing clear of the defence. The player showed great composure and awareness as he squared the ball to Wright-Phillips, who bagged his fourth of the season by pumping the ball through the legs of Chris Kirkland.

Wigan pulled a goal back in spectacular fashion through substitute Antoine Sibierski who had caused Chelsea problems since his late introduction. Controlling the ball on the edge of the area, he turned and lashed a beautiful effort into the top corner with Cech beaten. It was going to take an effort of such precision and power to beat the inspired Chelsea shot stopper, and the goal was just that. Wigan had found a lifeline and were suddenly applying the pressure. But the Chelsea rearguard stood firm, although Marcus Bent broke free and almost earned salvation for Wigan, but his volley smacked against the crossbar and out of play.
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Match Fact : Chelsea are unbeaten in domestic cup competitions since April 2006, in a 2-1 loss to Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final.

Wigan: Kirkland (6), Melchiot (6), Bramble (5), Scharner (8), Kilbane (6), Valencia (7), Brown (5), Palacios (5) (Sibierski (8)), Taylor (6) (Koumas (6)), Bent (7), Heskey (7) (Aghahowa (6)).
Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Boyce.

Booked: Bramble, Scharner, Palacios, Aghahowa.

Goals: Sibierski 87.

Chelsea: Cech (6), Belletti (7), Carvalho (6), Alex (6), Bridge (7), Malouda (5) (Ferreira (6)), Makelele (7), Sidwell (8), Wright-Phillips (7), Joe Cole (8), Anelka (8) (Pizarro (6)).
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Sinclair, Ben-Haim.

Booked: Alex, Carvalho.

Goals: Anelka 53, Wright-Phillips 82.

Attendance: 14,166

Referee: Uriah Rennie

Man of the Match : Nicolas Anelka

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Edited by BlueLion
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