An historic victory for Wigan Athletic in their first ever European game last night delighted a noisy home crowd, not just for the result but for an excellent team performance which with slightly better finishing especially from Nick Powell could have seen Wigan approach double figures so dominant was their performance.
Owen Coyle resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes from the team that narrowly lost to Watford on Saturday recalling Boyce, Beausejour and McManaman to the starting line up instead of the injured Fortune, with Rogne and McClean dropped to the bench.
Wigan started like a house on fire with man of the match Watson pulling the strings in midfield ably supported by McArthur and Beausejour with Powell a willing foil up front. So dominant was Wigan’s performance that it was seventeen minutes before Maribor got the ball into the Wigan penalty area.
Powell in particular will wake up this morning wondering how he didn’t score a minimum of a hat trick so complete was his mastery of the Maribor defence and he almost open his account in the first ten minutes when he intercepted a poor pass in midfield and raced through on the keeper. He chose to try and lob the keeper from the edge of the area, however Handanovic made a fine save tipping the ball away for a corner.
Gomez and Watson both had free kicks in good positions come to naught but the opening goal which marked Wigan Athletics’ foray into European history had more than a touch of farce about it.
Beausejour attempted a cross from the left; the keeper punched the ball which flew over his head allowing Powell to head into an unmarked goal.
Wigan continued to dominate and doubled their lead when Beausejour fired a cross over and Watson stole in to head the second goal sending the Wigan fans into paroxysms of delight.
Powell almost added another and McManaman broke through a static Maribor defence but his shot went narrowly wide of the far post.
Half time brought a standing ovation for the home side who had only been occasionally threatened on the break by the burly figure of Tavares.
Maribor started the second half with more purpose but Wigan soaked up the pressure comfortably , using their pace to break out of defence at will and feed in the dangerous Powell who gave his markers a torrid time, first Watson crossed and the lunging Powell seemed inches off making contact and then another goalmouth scramble saw Powell manage to miss the goal for less than a yard out, the ball going along the line before being cleared for a corner.
Wigan’s profligacy in front of goal looked to haunt them as Mendy showed great strength to hold of Barnett and find Taveres who fired the ball past Carson to narrow the lead.
Wigan resisted the temptation to shut up shop and continued to push forwards with Beausejour looking particularly productive down the left flank.
The score remained the same although on the ninetieth minute Wigan were indebted to a fine one handed save by Carson to keep their lead intact and less than a minute later Nick Powell received the ball in the Maribor half, beat three defenders before slotting the ball home past the keeper.
The full time whistle brought to an end a performance that was high on tempo and no little skill and bodes well for the rest of the season
Carson…8, didn’t have much to do but did it well
Barnett…..7, showed some nice attacking touches.
Perch….6, played well out of position.
Beausejour….played well, some good crosses
Gomez….5, flitted in and out of the game, a couple of embarrassing dives
Watson…..9, Man of Match a sublime performance.
McManaman….6, failed to impose himself on the game
Powell….8.5 , should have scored five
McClean…5.5. a quiet performance
McCann ….5.5. little impact
(Thanks to TerryThomas for the photograph, even though he doesn’t know I nicked it from his facebook page, I’m sure he won’t mind – NRP)
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