Originally posted on Fox Soccer  |  Last updated 4/14/13
The two FA Cup semifinals could hardly have been more different. On Saturday, Wigan Athletic saw off Millwall in a game notable far less for what happened on the pitch than for the violence off it ; on Sunday, Manchester City beat Chelsea 2-1 in a minor classic, a thrilling game played out in spring sunshine before a packed stadium of passionate but well-behaved fans. It's true there was controversy, both in Sergio Aguero's two-footed lunge at David Luiz and in the penalty not given when Vincent Kompany grabbed the shirt of Fernando Torres in the box but at least it was controversy within the game, a by-product of the tremendous desire on the part of both sides to win. And that, perhaps, was the most striking aspect. Every year the FA Cup seems to be surrounded by debates about its worth; about ways of making it more interesting or more relevant. Take two good teams who care about winning and set them against each other in a one-off contest and the result can be gloriously engaging. The only disappointment was that Chelsea only turned up after half-time. It was its 61st game of the season - a by-product of progress in the Europa League - and while its manager, Rafa Benitez, refused to use that as an excuse, it's hard to believe fatigue wasn't a factor in Chelsea's flat first half display. If tiredness had been an issue, he said, "then you cannot explain how you finish so strong. You have to give credit to City - they're a strong team technically and physically." He must know, though, that it's entirely possible for a weary side to raise itself for a final surge - and the danger now is that that fatigue carries over to this week's league games, away against Fulham and Liverpool. Chelsea has won only two of its last 12 games away from Stamford Bridge and there lurks a danger that it could end up with nothing if it really has hit the wall. Benitez is smart enough to recognize that even acknowledging fatigue as a factor risks offering players an excuse. City could easily have had the game won by half-time, but a combination of Petr Cech's excellence and some wasteful finishing meant it led only 1-0, Samir Nasri finishing calmly after the ball had bobbled kindly to him from Cesar Azpilicueta's challenge. "We talked at half-time about having more character in possession but conceded early in the second half," said Benitez, his side's marking again going awry, and Azpilicueta raising questions about his sharpness as he allowed Aguero to run on to Gareth Barry's cross and guide a header past Cech. The arrival of Fernando Torres rallied Chelsea, and after Demba Ba had brilliantly volleyed in off the post, it had a flurry of chances. Costel Pantilimon, preferred to Joe Hart as he has been throughout the Cup campaign, made a couple of fine blocks and David Luiz sent a free-kick just wide. That final hour was astonishingly stretched, Chelsea clearly near its limits, and it's hard to imagine it could have maintained that intensity had it taken the game to extra-time. The issue now is to recover before Wednesday. City, meanwhile, is a firm favorite for the final, even if its manager Roberto Mancini admitted the FA Cup is only a consolation after a dismal defense of their league title. "We can be disappointed for the Premier League ," he said. "I think we had a chance to win the Premier League if we'd worked well last summer. We didn't. We made some mistakes. Now we are a good team, we know this and when we play in the FA Cup, we want to win the final. Everyone can think we are favorite for this game - but in 90 minutes anything can happen. Wigan we know play good football." Wigan had been comfortable winners over Millwall before in a game overshadowed by violence in the Millwall end that led to 14 arrests and the possibility of more to come. Given the efforts the club has made to rid itself of the hooligan image it acquired in the eighties, the incidents came as a sickening reminder that a reputation for trouble can reach a point at which it is self-perpetuating, and also took the gloss of what should have been a glorious day for Wigan. It's true that it is the Premier League team and it's true that it dominated the game for all but a spell of about 20 minutes after half-time, but reaching a first FA Cup final is still an enormous achievement for a club that only joined the Premier League in 2005. There was mockery of the fact Wigan could only sell 22,000 tickets and had to send 10,000 of its allocation back, but that should be set in the wider context that when Roberto Martinez joined the club as a player, 18 years ago, it was in the fourth flight and attendances hovered around 2,000. Dave Whelan, the Wigan owner, the man whose money has funded the rise through the leagues - including the purchase of Martinez - will lead the side out at Wembley, a reminder that his top-level playing career was effectively ended in an FA Cup final. He broke his leg playing for Blackburn Rovers in its 3-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1960, leaving the club that summer to drop down the divisions and join Crewe Alexandra. Whelan's return to Wembley will be the romantic preview, but this weekend it was City who restored faith in the FA Cup.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Jason Garrett to discuss effort with Ezekiel Elliott

WATCH: Tigers’ Jeff Ferrell responsive after taking 103-mph liner to head

College football's biggest winners and losers so far

Ben McAdoo throws Eli Manning under the bus

The Giants are just as bad as they look

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Winners and losers from 'Monday Night Football' in Week 2

10 things the college football polls got wrong after Week 3

Andrew Bogut reportedly will sign with Lakers

Jamal Agnew burns Giants with 88-yard punt return

Report: Judge Adalaide Byrd could be removed from UFC 216

Giants fans boo team off the field after ugly first half

The 'Remember the tight ends' quiz

Ranking the best college football fan bases

Getaway Day: Time runs short as postseason nears

Sports & Politics Intersect: White House sticks it to sports

The 'Not so elementary, my dear Watson' quiz

September chill hits Astros, Dodgers at worst time

College football 2017 Week 3 predictions

Three Up, Three Down: Cleveland hits historic heights while Cubs struggle

The 'Will the Indians ever lose again?' quiz

What's to become of Andy Dalton in Cincinnati?

NFL Week 2 predictions

The 'Kobe finally does something that Jordan did not do' quiz

Wanderers News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Ranking the best college football fan bases

The 'Remember the tight ends' quiz

Getaway Day: Time runs short as postseason nears

Sports & Politics Intersect: White House sticks it to sports

The 'Not so elementary, my dear Watson' quiz

September chill hits Astros, Dodgers at worst time

Three Up, Three Down: Cleveland hits historic heights while Cubs struggle

The 'Will the Indians ever lose again?' quiz

What's to become of Andy Dalton in Cincinnati?

College football 2017 Week 3 predictions

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker