Wigan earned a vital point in their first ever European match as they held Belgian side Zulte Waregem to a goalless draw.
The well-earned point is a solid starting block for Owen Coyle’s Championship side ahead of their home clash with Maribor on October 3.
The Lancashire outfit were the better side for the opening 30 minutes and went close when James McClean’s corner fell to James McArthur on the edge of the penalty area. The Wigan midfielder took one touch to set himself before sending a clever right-footed effort at goal, only to see it skim the post and drop to safety.
Wigan continued to exert pressure on the Belgian outfit until Chelsea’s on-loan signing Thordan Hazard settled into the game. On numerous occasions he collected the ball and ran at the Wigan players, skipping past challenges as he tore down on goal. He was at the centre of everything Zulte did – most notably in the final moment of the first half as Scott Carson was called into action, beating away Olafur Ingi Skulason’s low shot.
The hosts were the much better side in the second half and put Wigan under sustained pressure. Coyle’s men were disciplined and resolute at the back, however, and held out for a draw.
PRE-MATCH: Wigan's Shaun Maloney has not travelled to Belgium with Owen Coyle opting to rest the Scotland international. Manchester United's on-loan midfielder Nick Powell starts for the Latics whilst Champions League winner Scott Carson remains in goal.
5’ – WIGAN HIT THE POST: Wigan go close inside the first five minutes. McClean's corner is headed away but only as far as McArthur on the edge of the penalty area. The midfield man takes one touch before lashing a right-footed effort at goal that beats the keeper and shaves the outside of the post.
36’ – ZULTE HIT THE BAR: Hazard’s cross from the right is met by the head of McClean, but the Wigan man doesn’t make great contact with the ball as it loops up in the air and comes back off his own crossbar. That’s the closes Zulte have gone so far…
45’ - GREAT SAVE FROM CARSON: Hazard bursts down the right and swings a ball in that causes havoc in the Wigan penalty area. It rolls to the onrushing Skulason who fires a shot at goal that is smartly saved by the backtracking Carson.
51’ – NIGHTMARE FOR CARSON: The hosts should be in front. Hazard whips a ball in from the right which should be claimed by Carson but the former England international is caught under the ball as Habibou nips in front of him. The striker can only head wide. Should have scored.
60’ - ZULTE GO CLOSE: Naessens bursts past Crainey and fires the ball across the six yard box. Carson attempts to beat it away but can’t quite get a hand to it. Fortunately for the keeper, the onrushing Habibou can’t quite make the ground.
Zulte had three shots on target, Wigan had one.
This was Wigan’s first ever game in European competition.
TALKING POINT: Will Wigan’s European exertions interrupt their promotion campaign? Owen Coyle’s side are 15th in the Championship but should be pushing for an immediate return to the Premier League. If they succeed in Europe then they could be looking at 60 games this season – so will diverting their energy and attention to the Europa League damage their prospects at home?
Zulte: Bossut 6, De Fauw 7, D'Haene 6, Malanda 6, Duplus 6, Skulason 6, Kums 5, Conte 6, Hazard 8, Naessens 6, Habibou 7. Subs: Caceres 6.
Wigan: Carson 6, Boyce 6, Shotton 6, Perch 5, Crainey 6, McArthur 6, McManaman 5, Gomez 6, McCann 7, McClean 6, Powell 4. Subs: Watson 6, Dicko 5, Fortune 6.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Thorgan Hazard (Zulte Waregem): The Belgian was at the centre of everything his side did. Like his brother Eden, he is confident on the ball and always looks to take on his man.
THE MATCH IN A TWEET
#Zulte 0-0 #Wigan: Owen Coyle takes a point in his first outing in the Europa League in association with Western Union, HTC and Hankook.
- Sports & Recreation
- Scott Carson
- Zulte Waregem
- Owen Coyle