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Wigan head boys Powell and Watson floor Maribor

Wigan Athletic FC 3-1 NK Maribor
The FA Cup holders made it a European home debut to remember courtesy of goals in each half from Nick Powell and a Ben Watson header.

Wigan forward Nick Powell (No19) takes the acclaim after his first goal
Wigan forward Nick Powell (No19) takes the acclaim after his first goal ©AFP/Getty Images

Wigan Athletic FC marked their first-ever European home game with a 3-1 Group D victory over NK Maribor.

The Slovenian title holders largely struggled to match the 15th-placed team in English football's Championship, conceding first-half strikes from Nick Powell and Ben Watson. However, Tavares's 60th-minute reply enlivened the contest, necessitating a stoppage-time clincher from Powell. If this was a debut to remember for Wigan, less so for Ante Šimundža, new coach of still point-less Maribor.

Powell had already drawn a save from Jasmin Handanovič before two goals midway through the first half bore out the Wigan crowd's I'm A Believer chants. Sadly for Handanovič, his attempted punch clear from Jean Beausejour's cross led to the 22nd-minute opener: it sent the ball spinning back towards the Maribor goal where the lurking Powell accepted a free header into the net.

Soon it was 2-0. Wigan owe their place in the competition to the head of FA Cup final match winner Watson, and the midfielder was at it again from Beausejour's left-wing centre. Beausejour and Callum McManaman also went close before half-time.

For Beausejour, formerly of Birmingham City FC, this is a second UEFA Europa League group stage with an English second-tier club in the same section as Maribor. Despite Aleš Mejač's long-range drive and two Jean Philippe Mendy shots to warm the hands of Scott Carson, a third successive win against the Violets loomed for the Chilean.

Maribor captain Tavares made that less certain on the hour by slotting home powerfully after Mendy had danced around Carson to tee him up. Suddenly Wigan boss Owen Coyle had reason to regret Powell rattling the inside of a post. The Manchester United FC loanee was also centimetres from converting Watson's cross after Tavares had threatened an equaliser.

No matter: in a dramatic end-to-end finale, Powell confirmed the Lancashire side's first victory in Europe with a jinking run and cool finish.