Italian manager Paolo Di Canio called fourth-tier Swindon Town’s shock 2-1 FA Cup third-round win over top-flight Wigan Athletic on Saturday the “best moment of my life.”
Swindon, more than 50 places below Wigan in English soccer’s pyramid, stunned their Premier League visitors on a day known for its tradition, drama and incident.
“This is something special,” Di Canio told reporters. “The best moment of my life, an amazing performance against a team three divisions above us.”
Elsewhere, three players scored hat-tricks, several lower league teams frightened superior opposition and Newcastle United’s Hatem Ben Arfa scored a goal his manager Alan Pardew described as the finest he had ever seen.
In the day’s only all-Premier League clash, Newcastle beat Blackburn Rovers 2-1. Goals from Ben Arfa and Jonas Gutierrez delivered victory after David Goodwillie had shot the visitors in front.
“It is technically the greatest goal I have ever seen — you can smash them in from 40m, but to score a goal like that you have to be a special talent and it was an unbelievable goal,” Pardew said.
Premier League title-chasing Tottenham Hotspur brushed aside fourth tier Cheltenham Town 3-0, while West Bromwich Albion put out second-tier Cardiff City 4-2.
Swansea City beat second-tier Barnsley 4-2, Everton won 2-0 against minor league Tamworth, Fulham defeated third-tier Charlton Athletic 4-0, Norwich City downed second tier Burnley 4-1 and Aston Villa triumphed 3-1 at fourth-tier Bristol Rovers.
It was Di Canio’s youthful underdogs Swindon who delivered the unexpected though.
Trailing to a Callum McManaman goal for Wigan after 35 minutes, the home team hit back with a headed equalizer by Alan Connell and a fortunate 76th-minute winner that arrived when a shot by Matt Ritchie was deflected in off Paul Benson’s legs.
Di Canio’s counterpart Roberto Martinez was in a gracious mood after Wigan, second from bottom of the Premier League, slipped to defeat.
“Swindon deserved it,” the Spaniard said. “It was a typical FA Cup tie and, of course, we are disappointed. They took advantage of everything they could and they had greater desire.”
Premier League Bolton Wanderers (2-2) and Queens Park Rangers (1-1) were held to draws at fourth-tier Macclesfield Town and third-tier Milton Keynes Dons respectively.
Bolton went 2-1 down after a stunning 25m shot by Arnaud Mendy in the 68th minute, but the visitors were rescued by a David Wheater goal in the 77th.
QPR also struggled against Milton Keynes Dons, who were seeking to reach the fourth round for the first time after Dean Bowditch scored in the 65th minute. Heidar Helguson saved QPR’s blushes when he leveled in the 89th minute.
Stoke City recovered from a 1-0 deficit at manager Tony Pulis’ former club as they ousted fourth-tier Gillingham 3-1 thanks to Jonathan Walters, Cameron Jerome and Robert Huth.
Three players scored hat-tricks, Fulham’s Clint Dempsey leading the way with goals after eight, 61 and 81 minutes against Charlton.