Wigan travelled to Slovenia for the last Europa League group game knowing that even a win may not be enough for them to progress to the knock out stages of the competition but with the players keen to prove a point to the new manager that they were worthy of a starting place in forthcoming matches.
For his part, manager Uwe Rosler opted to ring the changes with returns for Rogne, Perch, Beausejour , Gomez and forgotten man and fan favourite Roger Espinoza. With captain Emerson Boyce rested for the game, midfield dynamo McArthur wearing the arm. On the bench youth team player of the year Ryan Meadows earned his first selection in the first team eighteen.
Wigan started brightly with a stable back four with Beausejour and Perch looking to push forwards and a fluid midfield constantly probing for a weakness in the home defence and good work by McManaman and Espinoza saw the ball threaded through towards Powell in the penalty area but Maribor managed to scramble the ball away.
Maribor slowly came into the game and following a move which saw Espinoza drawn out of position the ball was played inside from the Maribor right to Filipovic whose shot flew high over the goal.
Good work again between Espinoza and Beausejour saw the Chilean find Powell in the centre but his powerful show was over the bar with the keeper untroubled.
Espinoza was in everything and his effervescent style earned him the first booking of the game with a somewhat over zealous body check. McCann quickly followed him into the book for a challenge which brought blood to the check of the Maribor defender.
Wigan continued to exert pressure and gained their first corner when following good work from McManaman on the right his cross almost found Powell but the home side conceded the corner Beausejour wasted the corner crossing into the side netting.
Such was Wigan’s dominance of the midfield, the home were forced to play like an away side on the break and Tavares did well on the left but his cross was over hit past his supporting strikers allowing Wigan to clear comfortably.
Wigan won a free kick on the edge of the area and Gomez curled a free kick past the wall and with the keeper well beaten the ball bounced back off the post.
Wigan continued to press and a lovely ball from Gomez found Powell who went down under the challenge the referee having no hesitation in awarding a penalty. Gomez stepped up and scored Wigan’s first away European goal driving the ball straight down the middle.
WIthin a minute the game turned, McCann was adjudged to have committed a deliberate handball and the ensuing red. Carson pulled off a superb save onto the post but Mezga followed up quickly and planted the ball into the empty net and the scores were level but Wigan were a man down.
Half time brought to a close what had been until the forty third minute a largely satisfying performance marred by a harsh second yellow card for McCann and the ensuing conversion of the penalty
Watson came on as Rosler sought to negate the effects of McCann’s sending off replacing McManaman and WIgn almost took the elad following good work down the left once again the ball fell to Powell whose shot narrowly missed the goal in front of the massed Wigan fans.
Watson’s first real action was an all too casual back pass to Carson which the keeper did well to clear.
Maribor looked to use their man advantage and gradually ramped up the pressure and they took the lead when Wigan’s defence failed to clear a cross and the ball fell to Filipovic just outside the area and his powerful shot left Carson with no chance and Maribor had the lead.
Wigan didn’t give up and good work again by man of the match Espinoza found Fortune who laid the ball back to Watson and his shot was well saved by Handanovic.
Maribor immediately went up the other end and Bohar jinked through the defence and fired past the keeper and thankfully for Wigan just past the post.
The game was then levelled up at ten aside when Gomez broke and was clumsily challenged by Mertilj earning the Maribor a second yellow and Wigan had hope.
Wigan continued to try and get an equaliser ,their best chance falling to Barnett, his powerful shot going over the bar
Then in the last minute the ball fell to Fortune unmarked in the penalty area however his powerful shot was well saved by Handanovic.
The full time whistle brought to an end a game ( and European campaign)in which Wigan could consider themselves harshly treated by an over officious referee but the performance gave plenty of encouragement for the league campaign ahead
Team Line Up
Carson, Perch, Barnett, Rogne, Beausejour, McManaman, McArthur, Gomez, McCann, Espinoza, Powell
Watson for McManaman, Fortune for Powell, Boyce for McArthur
Man of the Match…………..Roger Espinoza, showed what Wigan have been missing this season
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