OWEN Coyle could not hide his pride after seeing Wigan Athletic welcome European football to Wigan in some style last night
Latics were far too good for Slovenian champions Maribor, running out 3-1 winners thanks to goals from Nick Powell (2) and Ben Watson.
Powell’s second goal, Wigan’s third, only came in the last minute after the visitors had threatened what would have been an undeserved equaliser.
But Coyle could not have asked for any more from his side on their big night.
“We knew Maribor would be a very good side, but I thought from start to finish we were absolutely outstanding,” the Wigan manager acknowledged.
“We passed the ball around with a terrific intensity, culminating in numerous goalscoring chances.
“There’s no doubt we could and should have scored five or six goals tonight.
“And if there was a negative, it was that we didn’t kill the game off until the last minute.
“I don’t recall Scott Carson having too much to do in the game, but he pulled off a fantastic save at the end to keep us in front.”
Carson’s save, in the dying seconds, had to be seen to be believed.
Jean Philippe Mendy, who had earlier created the goal that halved Wigan’s advantage, looked to have found the top corner from distance.
The Wigan goalkeeper, though, has other ideas with a save right out of the top drawer.
“It would have been an absolutely travesty had they got something at the end, I have to say,” Coyle said.
“But that’s why Scott’s there and he is an outstanding goalkeeper.
“He’s been around the England reckoning and I know he’d love to get back involved one day.
“I have to say saves like that can only help him to do that.
“The key ingredient for all top goalkeepers is when they’re not called on to do much but they are there when you need them to pull off a save like that. He was probably idle for 95 per cent of that game, but then he has the concentration levels to be there when we needed him.
“It was a huge moment in the game but what an injustice that would have been had they scored, because we should have been five or six ahead.”
Coyle also heaped praise on Powell for his contribution, ploughing the lone furrow up top.
“I thought it was fitting that Nick Powell scored the match-clinching goal at the end, because he had a super game,” Coyle said.
“He scored two goals but he could easily have come away with five or six goals.
“He had the one-on-one in the early stages, then the one when he could perhaps have squared it to James McArthur.
“In the second half he had a couple where he slid in and could have scored, one of which hit the post, but when you’re as good he is you’re always going to get chances.”
The Latics chief also hailed the effort of the fans, who were behind their side right from the outset and laid the platform for what followed on the pitch.
“I thought the fans were outstanding tonight, and the players responded to that,” Coyle added. “And when you have that all brought together it’s a terrific sight to see. The atmosphere tonight was bouncing, and they were enjoying European football.
“Only 16 years ago, this club was in the bottom tier of English football, and now we’re welcoming European football. And with that performance tonight, I really think we’d have stood toe to toe with a lot of teams in Europe.”