REPORT: RUBIN 1 LATICS 0
RUBIN KAZAN 1
WIGAN ATHLETIC 0
Central Stadium, Kazan
Wigan Athletic suffered their first defeat in European football on Thursday evening, staging a spirited fight back but losing out 1-0 to Rubin Kazan in Russia.
Set against the stunning backdrop of the Kazan Kremlin, the Central Stadium played host to Latics and their 150 ardent travelling supporters on Matchday 4 of the Europa League group phase in a meeting of Group D’s top two.
An even first half was punctuated by Oleg Kuzmin’s goal after 22 minutes, the full back springing the offside trap and converting Bebras Natcho’s through ball past the impressive Lee Nicholls who made his European debut for the club.
Latics fought well to prevent their opponents taking a stronghold in the game, defending resolutely and finding space on the counter attack, led by James McArthur who captained the side for the first time.
Roger Espinoza made his first start for the club since September, and was unfortunate not to win a penalty midway through the half after being felled from behind inside the area. The referee waved away the visitor’s protests, and would later allow Dimitri Torbinski to get away with a second yellow card after the second of two identical fouls on Callum McManaman.
After the break, Owen Coyle’s side, which had six changes made to it from their 2-1 victory over Huddersfield the previous Saturday, took the game to Rubin, and were unfortunate not to break a seven-game European record that the home side hold at the Central Stadium of not conceding a single goal.
Substitute Nick Powell danced his way down the right wing, before cutting infield and taking on three players before striking left footed from 25-yards. His shot had Rubin keeper Sergei Ryzhikov well beaten, but whizzed a yard wide of the woodwork.
On top of the game, and putting the home defence under real pressure Latics pushed for an equaliser and Coyle thought his team had scored it inside the final quarter of an hour when Roger Espinoza’s cross from the left wing found the towering Thomas Rogne whose header sailed past Ryzhikov abut came back off the crossbar to the despair of Coyle, his team and the supporters.
In the closing stages Jordi Gomez fired a free kick against the wall before delivering a low corner to James McClean at the near post, with the Republic of Ireland international unlucky to see his glanced effort go wide of the post.
With Zulte Waregem defeating NK Maribor in Slovenia in the evening’s other Group D match Latics retain second place in the group with five points, one ahead of the next opponents Zulte and two ahead of Maribor.
Rubin Kazan: Ryzhikov; Kuzmin, Sharonov, Navas, Mavinga (Kislyak, 46), M’Vila, Natcho, Eremenko, Torbinski (Wakaso, 75), Ryazantsev, Mukhametshin (Prudnikov, 83)
Subs: Berezin, Kulik, Dzhalilov
Latics: Nicholls; Shotton, Barnett, Rogne, Crainey, McArthur, Espinoza, Perch (Powell, 60), McManaman (Gomez, 73), McClean, Holt (Fortune, 70)
Subs: Pollitt, McCann, Boyce, Garcia