Owen Coyle, the Wigan manager, praised the efforts both of his players and Latics fans after the club’s first-ever European match ended in a goalless draw with Zulte Waregem.
Coyle’s side nearly took an early lead in the Europa League Group D contest in rain-sodden Bruges, with James McArthur clipping the post with a curling third-minute shot.But they survived several scares thereafter, with James McClean heading against his own bar, goalkeeper Scott Carson doing well to save an Ibrahima Conte shot and Chris McCann making a last-ditch block to keep out Karel D’Haene’s late strike.
They were roared on by around 2,500 Wigan fans who had made the trip, and following the final whistle, Coyle said: “We knew that at different periods we were going to have to stand up and defend well.
“I said before the game that Zulte Waregem have some very good attacking players, and nothing has altered my opinion. Having said that, as much as we had to defend well, if we had taken care a little bit more on the counter-attack we could have scored a couple of goals ourselves.
“From start to finish it was an outstanding debut in European football for everyone associated with the football club,” Coyle added. “The players performed out of their skins and defended well when they had to.
“And to have 2,500 fans travel over here in the torrential rain... They sang their hearts out and gave the players a lot to fight for.”
Zulte Waregem Bossut; De Fauw, Conte, Malanda, Duplus, D’Haene, Hazard, Kums, Skulason, Habibou (Caceres, 72), Naessens. Substitutes not used Bruzzese, Verboom, Sylla, N’Diaye, Tarfi, Bongonda.
Wigan Athletic Carson; Shotton, Boyce, Perch, Crainey, McArthur, McCann, McManaman (Fortune, 66), Gomez (Watson, 66), McClean, Powell (Dicko, 83). Substitutes not used Nicholls, Espinoza, Garcia, Buxton.
Referee M Borski (Poland).