Wigan leave Bruges with valuable point
James McClean’s header off his own crossbar the biggest scare against Zulte Waregem
Zulte Waregem’s Ibrahima Conte (left) fights for the ball with Wigan’s Stephen Crainey at Jan Breydel Stadium in Bruges. Photograph: Laurent Dubrule/Reuters
Zulte Waregem 0 Wigan Athletic 0: Wigan emerged from their first-ever European match with a point after battling out a stalemate with Zulte Waregem in Bruges.
Roared on by around 2,500 fans who had made the trip from Wigan for the Europa League Group D game, the Latics made a bright start in driving rain and nearly had the lead in the third minute when James McArthur clipped the post with a curling shot.
Zulte, who had on-loan Chelsea midfielder Thorgan Hazard — the younger brother of Blues star Eden Hazard — in their team, came into the contest more as the first half continued, though. And they were almost gifted a goal when James McClean headed against his own bar from a Hazard delivery in the 35th minute.
There was another self-inflicted scare for Owen Coyle’s side just before the interval, with Wigan being dispossessed and the ball coming to Hazard, who saw his shot blocked by a defender before Scott Carson did well to keep out the follow-up from Ibrahima Conte.
Zulte continued to press after the break, although Ryan Shotton’s strike then had goalkeeper Sammy Bossut diving with an outstretched glove to keep the score level.
A last-ditch block from Chris McCann then denied Karel D’Haene in the last few minutes. Ultimately, the game at a sodden and sparsely-populated Jan Breydel Stadium — not the regular home of West Flanders-based Zulte — somewhat failed to live up to what was a landmark occasion in Wigan’s history.
Latics fans will surely not be too disappointed, with their team, starting with seven changes from last weekend’s Sky Bet Championship loss at Leicester, having at least got off the mark in Group D, which also features Russia’s Rubin Kazan and Maribor of Slovenia.