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Wigan keep cup defence dream alive

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Wigan's Ben Watson challenges Cardiff's Wilfried Zaha

Wigan's Ben Watson challenges Cardiff's Wilfried Zaha

Stu Forster/Getty Images

Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi makes a fingertip save

Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi makes a fingertip save

Stu Forster/Getty Images

Cardiff's Fraizer Campbell reacts after a near miss

Cardiff's Fraizer Campbell reacts after a near miss

Stu Forster/Getty Images

Wigan's James Perch takes a tumble over the boards

Wigan's James Perch takes a tumble over the boards

Stu Forster/Getty Images

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Wigan's Ben Watson challenges Cardiff's Wilfried Zaha

Wigan kept alive their unlikely dream of defending the FA Cup and at the same time heaped a little more misery on Cardiff and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

First-half goals from Chris McCann and last season's Cup final hero Ben Watson proved enough to guide the holders into this afternoon's quarter-final draw. There was no such joy for Solskjaer and Cardiff, who despite dominating the game in terms of possession, paid the price for their toothlessness in front of goal.

The only genuine consolation for Solskjaer was the sublime performance of 18-year-old Norwegian Matts Moeller Daehli, the former Molde midfielder, who moved to south Wales last month.

"The biggest plus, perhaps the only plus, was Matts's performance," said Solskjaer. "He is going to be a fantastic footballer. He wants to get on the ball and create chances, and that's what he did. It was just a pity we couldn't convert some of those opportunities.

"It was very disappointing because we had the majority of the ball and we had more chances. But if you don't take those chances, you are not going to win games.

"Wigan are a good side, with probably more Premier League experience than we have, but we thought we had a chance here and that's what is disappointing."

Solskjaer made five changes from the side that drew with Aston Villa in the league in midweek, with Daehli, fellow Norwegian Joe Inge Berget and the former Seville central defender Juan Cala all handed a first start.

Unfortunately, it was a third of Solskjaer's countrymen, Magnus Wollf Eikrem, who was under the spotlight in the 18th minute as the holders took the lead. Having lost out on the edge of his own penalty area, the former Manchester United youngster could only watch as Jordi Gomez crossed for McCann to convert at the far post.

By now, Cardiff were starting to show the kind of anxiety that has marked their Premier League fall. Yet they soldiered on and after one or two close shaves, finally got the slice of good fortune that Solskjaer has been waiting for.

Wilfried Zaha worked his way into the penalty area, courtesy of some neat and tidy footwork from the impressive Daehli and after one or two favourable ricochets, Campbell struck from eight yards to bring Cardiff level.

Daehli was starting to show the kind of prowess that Solskjaer had spoken about prior to the 18-year-old's arrival in south Wales. Confident in possession and eager to support his front two, the youngster was a constant threat.

Still, there was little he could do about Wigan's second goal – a 25-yard drive from Watson set up by a Gomez free kick.

Daehli shot inches wide in the first minute of the second half, and when Craig Noone arrived, as a 61st minute substitute, the pressure was all on Wigan. Noone was denied by Ali al-Habsi, Zaha and Daehli shot over and Campbell was inches away from converting Cala's header.

Wigan had their own opportunities to extend the lead as Cardiff pushed on and left acres of space at the back. Fortune fluffed his lines on more than one occasion, while Cala and Steven Caulker both had to mop up after defensive errors elsewhere.

In the end, the visitors held on and deservedly took their place in the last eight. What price a repeat of last year and another unlikely success at Wembley? "We will take it game by game, but for now I am happy with the performance and happy for the supporters who travelled in numbers. We made them proud," said Wigan boss Uwe Rossler.

"I thought the players showed fantastic quality, and I am delighted to work with a quality group of players. We have now beaten two premier League sides along the way, but we must now turn our attention to the Championship game on Tuesday. As far as the draw is concerned, I would certainly take a home game. That would be nice for us."

Telegraph

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