NK Maribor 2-1 Wigan: When in doubt, pull a card out

NK Maribor stadium

Stadion Ljudski vrt in calmer times. (c)Alen Ištoković

A drunken sage once claimed that history is ‘more or less bunk’. Seeing as he was in the Springfield at the time, I’m fairly sure he was referring to football and its obsession with the present day.

Case in point: Maribor v Latics. Potentially Wigan’s final European game for a long time, with progression to the next stage of the continent’s second most prestigious competition (after the FA Cup) at stake. But forget that, because Bolton on Sunday!

Screw all that nonsense. In ten years’ time, when we’re bleaching our Irn Bru-stained dentures while ushering those pesky kids from our front lawn, this is the game we shall remember. After the FA Cup, of course! Heheh, I wonder how many more times I can squeeze references to that game into this article before I’m booed off stage? Uh oh, already too late… best not tarry with this ‘report’.

McCann’s Christmas Dinner (BBC2)

Fortune cookie

Fun fact: Fortune cookies aren’t that popular in China. (c)Lorax

The first half was like a meal at a Chinese restaurant – full of protein but with no real sharpness of taste. Oooh, a scathing indictment of our local Cantonese there! But Wigan must have sneaked in some extra strong Tabasco sauce as they were certainly livelier, retaining much of the possession and, by and large, outplaying their hosts. Naught much was happening in either penalty area, however.

Then came the fortune cookies. Latics earned their penalty via a good passing move which culminated in Powell ending up on his backside 10 yards from goal. Instant spot-kick, just reward.

Moments later, Gomez confidently played his joker by brazenly rolling the ball into the centre of the net, chortling as Maribor’s Jasmin ‘Here, Have This Goal’ Handanovic went flying off in another direction. If only he had remained where we stood, he could have placed his foot on the ball as it came towards him, like you see in those Soccerdome matches where keepers never dive.

Maribor & Wise Christmas Special (Channel 5)

The Purples (superb nickname) didn’t like having the mickey taken and finally decided to switch on the lights, with great success. Almost immediately, poor Chris McCann left his arm in the way of a Mitja Viler strike, earning a booking for his CV. Sadly it already read ‘yellow card – accidentally elbowed some bloke in the cheek’, resulting in his ejection. Quick, crack open another of those fortune cookies!

Penalty Maribor. Dejan Mezga was to be denied by Scott Carson at full stretch, a magnificent save that would have gone down as one of the greatest in Wigan’s history… except for the fact the ball rebounded off the post and into the striker’s path. And you know what Mezga did? Why, place it into the net, of course! Superb.

McCann’s somewhat unfortunate sending off was to have a massive bearing on the game’s final outcome. Spying an opportunity, the home side sprang to life, doubling their tally on 58 minutes through some other bloke with an unpronounceable name. Ack, apologies for all this flippancy… or should I say Filipovic-ancy? Ho ho ho (Merry Christmas)!

Alright, this goal deserves further description. Remember Malanda-Adje’s finger-splitter for Waregem at the Pie Dome the other week? This one rivals that in terms of quality, a long-range piledriver that Carson decided not to risk his fingers with. You could sit and blame somebody for the defending (and I usually do), but that would be doing the goal a real disservice. Great stuff.

Szymon Marciniak’s Christmas Cards (ITV1)

NK Maribor snow

Maribor of yesteryear: watch out for that snowman!

Referee Szymon Marciniak’s insane obsessive compulsive carding would reignite the game as a contest on 73 minutes as double-booked amateur dramatist Ales Mertelj performed seven arabesques on his way down the tunnel. After this brief interlude, the game resumed some three minutes later to the tune of China Crisis’ Wishful Thinking (that’s one for the end of your podcast, Barry) – with the rosters even once again, and Kazan hitting the lead against Waregem, hopes were momentarily raised.

Well, by this time Leon Barnett was playing in an advanced midfield position and Emmerson Boyce was soon to join him. Watson had just forced the temperamental (in more ways than one) Handanovic into a low save, and Fortune was to do the same much later. Wigan were finding their feet again, but what was this? Oh dear, the ref had just blown his whistle for full time.

Only four minutes of stoppage time? Well, if you say so, sir – the 25 minutes wasted for those 30 bookings, red cards and substitutions must have fallen down a storm grid. Apparently, they did send a small child after them but he was eaten by one of the sewer monsters that are so prevalent in Slovenia. Hmm, maybe I should stop taking those match reports in The Beano as fact.

For the benefit of those reading in 2020, Maribor went through ahead of Latics by virtue of their victory in this game. Not a particularly funny point on which to finish, but it had to be stated to avoid confusion. Here, wallow in thine self-pity with a rare press conference appearance from Roger.

Pre-match press conference courtesy Latics Official (err, YouTube)

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