Europa League: Late drama leaves Wigan empty-handed against Zulte
Wigan's Europa League fate hangs in the balance after they endured a night to forget during a 2-1 loss to Zulte-Waregem.
Last Updated: 29/11/13 12:15am
Wigan Athletic's Europa League fate is hanging in the balance after they endured a night to forget during a 2-1 defeat to Zulte-Waregem.
A costly error from Lee Nicholls and a spectacular late strike from Junior Malanda left the Latics empty-handed.
Leon Barnett fired the hosts in front at the DW Stadium, but dreams of a place in the last-32 were to be dashed.
It took just seven minutes for Owen Coyle's side to break the deadlock, with a miskick from Jordi Gomez falling nicely for Barnett to sweep home.
Wigan bossed the game for long periods thereafter, but were pegged back on 37 minutes when a hopeful effort from Thorgan Hazard - brother of Chelsea star Eden - was allowed to slip through the grasp of the unfortunate Nicholls.
They were then dealt a knockout blow two minutes from time when substitute Idrissa Sylla teed up Malanda to rifle into the top corner from the edge of the box.
Wigan are now relying on their result away at Maribor on Matchday Six, and favours from elsewhere, to see them through to the knockout stages.
The Latics came flying out of the blocks and it took them only seven minutes to make it count.
Callum McManaman tricked his way into the box on the right hand side and pulled the ball back for Gomez.
The Spaniard sliced his shot badly but the ball fell perfectly for Barnett, who produced a striker's finish by guiding his volley into the bottom corner.
The directness of McManaman and James McClean on the wings was causing Zulte all sorts of problems and a second goal looked well within their grasp.
In the 13th minute, McManaman skipped past two defenders in the centre of the box and his shot was well saved by Sammy Bossut.
The goalkeeper was a busy man and soon after he was called upon to push behind a shot from McClean, who might have been better picking out Gomez as the Latics failed to make the most of a three-on-one break.
Zulte had been on the back foot for the majority of the half but they shocked their hosts by pulling level eight minutes before half-time.
There did not look to be any threat as Barnett forced a corner at the other end, but Zulte cleared and a mix-up resulted in James McArthur sending the Belgians off on the counter-attack before the ball was played out to Hazard on the right of the area.
Nicholls opted to try to catch the Chelsea man's firmly-struck shot but it was a decision he regretted as the ball slipped through his hands and into the net.
Wigan only had themselves to blame, but they were nearly ahead again before half-time, Thomas Rogne glancing Gomez's corner across goal and wide when he really should have found the net.
Wigan were committing a lot of men forward and they were almost caught out in the early stages of the second half but Stephen Crainey did well to block Ibrahima Conte's shot.
The Belgians had settled into the game, and their small but noisy band of fans had high hopes when Hazard let fly again, although this time his shot did not trouble Nicholls.
Powell's first real chance arrived in the 61st minute as Steve Colpaert made a hash of clearing a cross from Crainey.
The on-loan Manchester United man struck his shot well from the edge of the box but it was too close to Bossut, who again produced a good save.
Gomez is often given a rough ride by the Wigan fans and there were loud cheers as he was replaced by Marc-Antoine Fortune with 26 minutes left.
Hazard was certainly the main dangerman as far as the Latics were concerned and his cheeky free-kick might have crept in the near post - understandably Nicholls was not taking any chances.
Both sides continued to push for a winner and McArthur was only a whisker away in the 79th minute with a shot just wide.
It was Wigan looking the more likely but they were hit with a sucker punch in the 88th minute as Malanda took aim from the edge of the box and found the top corner.
|Wigan Athletic||Team Statistics||SV Zulte Waregem|
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|7||Shots on Target||3|
|6||Shots off Target||5|
|34.5||1st Half Poss.||65.5|
|42.5||2nd Half Poss.||57.5|