Olsene Castle, Zulte’s Haigh Hall (c)Paul Hermans
I risk the ire of supporters everywhere when I say this, but the Europa League is an FA Cup-style sideshow. I refer you to Owen Coyle’s first press conference as Wigan manager when, under the parental eye of Uncle Dave, he solemnly proclaimed ‘getting back to the Premier League’ as his priority. Yes, even ahead of stocking the DW’s fridges with Scotland’s National Drink.
Alright, enough with the stupid Irn Bru references as they are now so old they’ve just gone out of fashion for the seventh time. And anyway, I thought whiskey was the Official Drink of Scotland? Ack, I get the feeling I’ve just earned myself another hour of sifting through hate mail.
But going back to sideshows, they can often be more fun than the actual circus, which is full of scary clowns and people falling over unconvincingly. Any resemblance to Wigan Athletic FC is purely coincidental, I swear! Yeesh, it’s a good job I don’t write the official match reports or I’d be in Dave ‘Headmaster’ Whelan’s office every couple of hours and writing ‘small time internet weblogs will never be funny’ 100 times on the dressing room whiteboard.
If the cup competitions are for the fans, then the FA Cup victory was a free ticket to the Haigh Music Festival. By that token, the Europa League is… erm, Glastonbury? I dunno, I’m becoming buried in metaphors and questionable grammar here. Help me out, match report!
Only if you promise not to make any more ‘humorous’ comments.
Not a DW toilet cubicle.
Okay, I’ll try, Mr Sub-heading, but I warn you: it might become a more frustrating process than finding a toilet cubicle in the concourse at half time. Unless you have an aisle seat, which is a ticket to free bogsville for the suitably over-refreshed. JWAW’s Top Matchday Tips returns!
Domestic high flyers Waregem endured a stodgy start as Latics took a well-earned early lead. Superstar centre forward Leon Barnett witnessed his sweetly struck leg-bruiser evade a battalion of posteriors and wheeled away to grow a fluffy microphone moustache. Ah, another unusual celebration to add to his rapidly growing collection! A disgruntled TV bloke wiped some snot from the fur and a sheepish Barnett remained thankful –somewhat appropriate, considering this was Thanksgiving Day– he did not see the backside of Ruddy Buquet’s cream card.
The home side verily commanded the first half and might already have been jetting off to the next stage of the competition by the time Zulte first made themselves heard. McManaman and Barnett were among the bus stop queue eager to get home in time for tea… by which I mean they fashioned further glorious opportunities.
Yes, I promise that wasn’t an attempt at humour.
But an otherwise commendable 45 minutes of football was blemished by the veritable gut jab-groin kick combo of errors that resulted in a half time scoreline of 1-1. James McArthur’s mis-hit pass/clearance/seagull killer gifted Waregem a free play at the arcade cabinet, which wouldn’t have been so bad had Nicholls not let Hazard’s shot through his sticky fingers. Oh Lee, why did you have to order jam with your pre-match scones? At the very least, try not to wear your keeper’s gloves while eating them.
“Never mind – should Latics double their shots on target count to 10 by the game’s end, qualification is an inevitability.” Sadly, I do not remember any – though the BBC informs me there was at least one, give or take the odd counting error on behalf of the statistical apprentice/volunteer/bloke they forced at fartpoint.
The second half was a much more even affair, though I am inclined to award it to Zulte on account of their excellent defensive counter-attacking football. And you know it pains me to do so, as I hold a greater Latics bias than those commentators on BT Sport.
Wigan’s creativity, however, was ebbing away. The previously OK-ish, if misfiring Gomez was rapidly becoming just a bloke stood waiting for the aforementioned 32 to Manchester. In a moment of madness, he remained almost statuesque for at least ten seconds, allowing a Waregem player to take the ball from him as if it were one of those free tickets to Haigh Music Fest. He was removed from the field and presumably relegated to waterboy duties for his misdemeanours.
By the 80th minute, Wigan were almost totally exhausted. Any remaining energy was focused on merely placing one foot in front of the other without falling over, which became an increasingly fruitless exercise – even Nick Powell was struggling to keep his shorts free of grass stains.
Thus, it wasn’t a huge surprise when Waregem took the lead with fewer than 280 seconds to play. Bernard Malanda-Adje’s mid-range strike sent the visiting contingent absolutely ecstatic, devastating Wigan’s progression chances with one highly accurate swing of the boot. Ahh football, the game of emotional extremes. I am man enough to acknowledge the quality, though I do admit I probably won’t be watching replays of it again and again.
Oh no, I’m going to have to see it again, aren’t I? Oh well, at least we have something to show for yesterday evening’s travails – a brand new chant! Think a stuttering ‘oooh aaah Cantona‘ without the ‘Cantona’. For this unwitting donation we are thankful, Zulte.
Matchday Live Euro Edition with Latics Official