Wolves book Sevilla date

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Europa League By Sam Wal­lace chief foot­ball writer at Mo­lineux

Wolves edged through to the quar­ter-fi­nals of the Europa League with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Greek side Olympia­cos at Mo­lineux last night, which se­cured a 2-1 vic­tory on ag­gre­gate. Raul Jimenez scored the win­ner from the penalty spot af­ter just eight min­utes. Wolves now face Sevilla next Tues­day night.

The odyssey con­tin­ues for Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers, whose sea­son pro­gresses to Duis­berg for a Europa League quar­ter-fi­nal against Sevilla next Thurs­day, which will be 385 days since they be­gan qual­i­fi­ca­tion for this cup run that run­neth over.

This was a strug­gle against de­ter­mined Greek op­po­nents in a sec­ond-leg,

last-16 game, al­most five months af­ter the first leg, which asked a lot of Nuno Espir­ito Santo’s play­ers. Yet they would later gather to cel­e­brate in an empty Mo­lineux – their last home game of the sea­son. Raul Jimenez’s early penalty was the dif­fer­ence be­tween two tired teams, of whom Wolves were no­tably the more ex­hausted.

They will have to be bet­ter to over­come Sevilla in Ger­many, the Span­ish club who are masters of this com­pe­ti­tion beat­ing Roma 2-0 ear­lier in the evening.

Nuno said that af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle he brought play­ers and staff to­gether to re­mind them of the scope of their achieve­ment. “It’s huge,” he said. “Ev­ery­one has to re­alise that, the ef­fort of the play­ers. I don’t know how many miles we have trav­elled. It’s crazy, re­ally. I said to the play­ers, ‘Let’s make it worth it’.”

They were on the back foot for much of the game and were for­tu­nate that a very close Var call ruled in their favour to deny Olympia­cos a first-half equaliser. Nev­er­the­less, Wolves are in the last eight, the first time they have reached this stage of a Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion since their 1971-72 Uefa Cup run took them all the way to the fi­nal and de­feat by Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur.

The roar of a full Mo­lineux might have given Nuno’s play­ers a lit­tle ex­tra im­pe­tus but it is their mis­for­tune that the restora­tion of the club’s Euro­pean rep­u­ta­tion 50 years on has co­in­cided with the Covid era. It has been a mag­nif­i­cent achieve­ment and may yet po­ten­tially see them up against Manch­ester United, should they over­come Copen­hagen in their quar­ter-fi­nal.

Nuno said later that an in­jury to the Span­ish wing-back Jonny, who left the sta­dium on crutches, meant that his chances of play­ing next week did not look good. He was more hope­ful about Matt Do­herty and Willy Boly, who also strug­gled to­wards the end. Even Nuno was felled in his own tech­ni­cal area, when Olympia­cos’ re­lent­less cen­tre-for­ward Youssef El-Arabi charged into him in pur­suit of the ball.

As for Sevilla, who have won the Europa League five times since 2006, a record num­ber for the com­pe­ti­tion, Nuno was upbeat. “We must al­ways be con­fi­dent that we can over­come the next chal­lenge,” he said. “We are in the last eight of the Europa League. Let’s do it well. Let’s com­pete.”

As a win­ner with Jose Mour­inho’s Porto in 2003 he has been there and done it.

He was crit­i­cal of the long de­lay that Var took in rul­ing out Mo­hamed Ca­mara’s goal for Olympia­cos in the first half – the com­bi­na­tion of no fans and the long wait for a de­ci­sion equat­ing, in his words, to “to­tal empti­ness”. El-Arabi’s run was judged off­side by the tight­est of mar­gins.

Much was owed to Rui Pa­tri­cio, who was out­stand­ing, mak­ing huge saves in both halves, in­clud­ing a late stop from a header by the tow­er­ing substitute Ahmed Has­san. Wolves had just 38 per cent of pos­ses­sion, and although they are a side com­fort­able not hav­ing the ball, that did seem on the low side. They strug­gled with Olympia­cos’s vet­eran Math­ieu Val­be­una, 35, who was still play­ing the mid­field mae­stro.

For the goal, Daniel Podence, the striker signed from Olympia­cos in Jan­uary, chased down his former team-mate, goal­keeper Bobby Al­lain. Al­lain looked frag­ile in that first half and his judg­ment was off when he chal­lenged Podence for the ball and barged the lit­tle striker over. The penalty was Jimenez’s 27th goal of the sea­son. In­clud­ing his 10 as­sists he has more goal in­volve­ments than any Premier League player this sea­son, bar Kevin De Bruyne on the same to­tal.

Podence’s book­ing means he will miss the Sevilla tie. By the end Wolves were cling­ing on. Even so, what a sea­son it has been.

Per­fect start: Raul Jimenez scores from the penalty spot to give Wolves the early lead

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