Latics 1 Zulte Waregem 2

Leon Barnett celebrates the opening goal of the game
Leon Barnett celebrates the opening goal of the game

LATICS’ European fate is now out of their own hands after a 2-1 defeat to Zulte Waregem at the Wigan Athletic Stadium.

The Belgians pinched an 88th minute winner through Junior Malanda after an end to end game.

Wigan had taken the lead through a superb finish from Leon Barnett in the seventh minute before Thorgan Hazard equalised half an hour later.

It was an interesting team selection from Owen Coyle, selecting no strikers and leaving both Grant Holt and Marc-Antoine Fortune on the bench.

This certainly didn’t hamper Wigan’s style though as they were on the attack from kick-off.

They had a good chance before the opening goal, when Thomas Rogne met a Jordi Gomez free-kick on the edge of the six yard box inside the first minute, but his shot was straight at Waregem goalkeeper Sammy Bossut.

Five minutes later, Gomez played a corner to Callum McManaman who danced his way into the box.

His cross was first met by the Spaniard, who had made his way into the area, but he fluffed his effort. The ball found Barnett though, who struck a sweet half volley into the bottom corner sending the home fans into raptures.

Latics didn’t sit back on their lead though and continued to push for a second.

McManaman was at the centre of the action again when he picked up the ball inside the penalty area but Bossut saved well.

With the game just 12 minutes old, Latics really had set the tempo and the Belgians knew they had to meet it.

They tried with a couple of efforts from Sven Kums and former Leeds striker Habib Habibou but they were both wide of the target.

Just as Waregem started to make their mark though, Latics broke with James McClean down the left handside.

The Irish international made his way into the area with Jordi Gomez in space to his right, but he fired a shot which was turned behind for a corner by Bossut.

The visitors got themselves into the game and enjoyed some more possession, looking dangerous on the break, which is how they got their equaliser.

From a Wigan corner inside the 37th minute, the Belgians broke after James McArthur had played a weary, looping backpass which fell to the Zulte attackers. After working their way up the field, Hazard fired a shot which Lee Nicholls met with both hands but it somehow slipped through and nestled into the back of the net.

The young goalkeeper, who has been superb since stepping in for Scott Carson last month, looked devastated.

Both sides kept up the tempo of the game after the equaliser. Rogne came the closest to regaining Latics’ lead but his header from Gomez’s corner was inches wide.

It was much of the same after the break, with the teams serving up end to end stuff without creating many chances though.

Latics weren’t as ruthless with Zulte showing that little bit of extra class towards the end.

The first real of the half opportunity fell to Powell, who pounced on the ball after the Zulte defence failed to deal with a Stephen Crainey cross. His fierce effort was palmed away by Bossut though.

Coyle brought on Marc-Antoine Fortune who almost made an immediate impact when his header was saved.

As was the nature of the game, Waregem then went on the attack, winning a free kick in a dangerous position. With Nicholls placing himself over to the right of his goal, Hazard chipped a testing effort to his left but the young ‘keeper got down well before picking up another loose ball a minute later.

Both sides continued to threaten without creating as many chances until the ball fell to McArthur on the edge of the box with 10 minutes to go.

The Scot took a touch and fired an effort which was just inches wide.

McManaman then made way for Roger Espinoza who was greeted by rapturous applause.

As both sides continued to attack, disaster struck.

After holding the ball up well inside the box, Idrissa Sylla played a smart pass to Malanda who struck the winner.

Latics did their best to force a point after the goal but left themselves too little time to do it.

Defeat means Latics must beat Maribor and rely on Waregem failing to beat Rubin Kazan in the final group matches.

Latics: Nicholls, Boyce, Rogne, Barnett, Crainey, McArthur, McCann, McManaman, Gomez, McClean, Powell

Subs: Pollitt, Shotton, Watson, Beausejour, Espinoza (for McManaman 84), Holt, Fortune (for Gomez 64)

Zulte Waregem: Bossut, de Fauw, D’Haene, Colpaert, Duplus, Skulason, Malanda, Conte, Kums, Hazard, Habibou

Subs: Bruzzese, Verboom, Sylla (for Conte 73), N’Diaye (for Skulason 90), Caceres (for Kums 90), Godeau, Bongonda