Rubin Kazan beat Wigan Athletic 1-0 in the Europa league thanks to Oleg Kuzmin, who scored only his second-ever goal for the club to make them the first club to qualify for the knockout stage of the tournament.
The first half had few opportunities for either side, and the only genuine chance was that which Kuzmin scored from. The full-back ran on to a pass, chipped over the top of the Wigan defence, charged towards goal and blasted the ball across Wigan’s goalkeeper Lee Nicholls, making only his sixth appearance for Wigan. Kuzmin had scored just once before in 82 games for Rubin Kazan.
Following the goal Rubin failed to create any other clear-cut chances, wasting any chances to cross with wayward passing, while Wigan - cheered on by 150 supporters who made the 2,500-mile trip - struggled to impose themselves on the game.
Despite drawing the occasional foul with surging runs from James McClean and Callum McManaman - earning Dmitri Torbinski a booking for his trouble - the visitors failed to make the breakthrough. Their best chance came when McClean sent a deep free-kick to the back post, aimed towards Grant Holt, which missed everyone in the box and drifted just wide of the goal.
Rubin Kazan displayed a ruthless streak throughout. In the second half, Torbinski had another lunge at McManaman, and Cesar Navas earned a booking for his second challenge from behind on Grant Holt.
This cynicism prevented Wigan from gaining any rhythm in their attacks. For Wigan, Stephen Crainey and James Perch and McCean earned yellows for cynical challenges. Rubin Kazan were happy to soak up the pressure, and break when they could.
Wigan introduced Nick Powell, on loan from Manchester United, in place of James Perch, to try to get back into the game. Immediately, Rubin had their best chance of the second half, Torbinski setting up Roman Eremenko to blast wide. Moments later Aleksandr Ryazantsev dragged a shot from the edge of the box wide, as the pressure on Wigan increased.
Powell intermittently impressed. In his best moment, he evaded three Rubin challenges with neat footwork, and his thirty-yard strike swerved a couple of yards wide.
With 10 minutes to go Espinoza whipped the ball forward and Thomas Rogne, lurking after a Shotton throw was not cleared, headed against the bar.
Powell could not improve a performance which demonstrated how and why Wigan have failed to score in over 700 minutes of play away from home. This should come as no surprise for a team that increasingly relied on Shotton’s throws.
Rubin have now amassed 10 points after four games, remaining undefeated, and have qualified for the next stage. Kazan have one of the most expensively assembled squads currently in the Europa League, and will be regarded as an opponent to avoid in the knockout stages.
Wigan, on five points, are still in with a chance of qualification. This was their first defeat of the group stage, but they will surely have to improve upon this showing if they are to make any meaningful progress.