Shropshire Star

Crusaders 1 Wolves 4 (1-6 on aggregate) – Europa League Report and pictures

Wolves survived an early scare before overseeing Crusaders with ease to set up a third qualifying round tie in Armenia next week.


Ryan Bennett's own goal gave Crusaders a 13th-minute lead but Raul Jimenez equaliser almost immediately. Bennett then headed home at the right end to put Wolves 2-1 up on the night before Jimenez added another before the break.

Jimenez later went off injured and Wolves added a fourth goal near the end when Jordan Forsythe headed past his own keeper.


When asked what he wanted from Wolves' trip to China, Nuno Espirito Santo responded "to survive".

You expect he had the same preferable outcome from their mini excursion to Northern Ireland – and Wolves managed to do just that, writes Tim Spiers at Seaview in Belfast.

Well, that's dependent on how serious Raul Jimenez's injury is, after the Mexican striker, who looked so sharp when scoring his two well-taken goals, walked gingerly from the field after 55 minutes.

Overall though it was very much job done on what was a tight and dry plastic pitch. Crusaders, backed by a raucous home crowd, gave them a bit of a fright in the opening stages and took the lead. But after Jimenez restored parity inside two minutes the tie was never really in doubt.

As far as Wolves' pre-season preparations go for that opening Premier League fixture at Leicester in 10 days' time go, the two Crusaders games have offered a good, physical test and seen Nuno's first-teamers get vital minutes.

They look in good shape, but a 3,000 mile trip to face Pyunik of Armenia three days earlier represents an unwelcome jaunt.

For the fans it's all part of what they hope will be the start of a wonderful adventure (they certainly enjoyed themselves in Belfast).

After the club's first away win in Europe for 46 years, these are uncharted waters for this Wolves generation. Long may it continue.

Match report

Nuno went as strong as possible, recalling Raul Jimenez in place of Morgan Gibbs-White, who dropped to the bench. Matt Doherty missed out injured again, while new signings Patrick Cutrone and Jesus Vallejo were ineligible.

Crusaders were defensive in the extreme at Molineux last week but, with home advantage at the picturesque but tight Seaview ground – and with an excited home crowd matching the rowdy Wolves fans for noise before kick off – they were always going to try and test Wolves early on.

So it proved, but surely no one was expecting an early home goal.

The hosts were bolshy in their approach with Jordan Owens, for whom the term 'big man up top' could have been invented, causing Conor Coady a couple of problems. The defender had to clear just ahead of the line from an Owens header, amid what was a haphazard opening from a defensive point of view – and then came the shock opener.

Jordan Forstyhe sent over a good cross and, under a bit of pressure, Ryan Bennett sent what was a bullet header past his own keeper and into the corner. The home fans, management and players went berserk – but Wolves responded in the perfect manner.

Just two minutes later they were level when Jimenez placed a clever and composed finish into the bottom corner from 18 yards, giving keeper Sean O'Neill no chance.

That should have been the signal for Wolves to take control but they were struggling to exert control, with organised Crusaders playing 5-4-1 without the ball (and 4-4-2 with it), restricting space in the final third and allowing little room out wide for the quiet Jonny Castro Otto and Adama Traore.

Jimenez was Wolves' bright spark and he went close to a second when he drilled just wide from range.

Then came the goal that effectively killed the tie. Bennett made amends for his earlier own goal when he found half a yard to nod home an outswinging Joao Moutinho corner.

Any hope the hosts had – and they caused Wolves more problems before the break with a bit of pinball around the box and some effective crosses and corners – vanished on the stroke of half time when that man Jimenez eked out some space to smash home a great effort from 18 yards which flew past the keeper.

The second half was a completely different story. Crusaders, knowing the tie was done and dusted, lacked the energy and vigour with which they attacked the first half and Wolves took control, dominating possession in the opposition half.

Chances weren't immediately forthcoming, with Moutinho going closest when he whipped a free kick to the near post where keeper O'Neill made a smart save before Morgan Gibbs-White's follow-up was blocked.

Gibbs-White was on the field owing to Jimenez hobbling off moments earlier with what looked like a foot injury.

Thereafter it was one-way traffic in a similar manner to last week, but with the game over as a contest the intensity decreased.

Ruben Vinagre and Romain Saiss replaced Jota and Neves, with Traore going up front and Otto switching to right wing-back.

The game was a procession now but Wolves added a fourth goal with 13 minutes remaining when a looping cross aimed at Adama Traore was headed into his own net by Crusaders defender Jordan Forsythe.

Saiss wasted a great chance for 5-1 but headed into the ground and over from Moutinho's corner, before Gibbs-White saw a late effort blocked and Vinagre flashed one over the crossbar.


Crusaders (5-4-1): O'Neill (c); Forsyth, Burns, Ward, Hegarty, O'Rourke; Clarke (Caddell, 78), Lowry, Hale (Thompson, 83), Heatley; Owens (Cushley, 80).

Subs not used: Doherty (gk), Beverland, Coates, Michael Ruddy.

Goals: Bennett (13, OG)

Wolves (3-5-2): Patricio; Bennett, Coady (c), Boly; Traore, Dendoncker, Neves (Saiss, 68), Moutinho, Otto; Jimenez (Gibbs-White, 55), Jota (Vinagre, 68).

Subs not used: John Ruddy (gk), Sanderson, Kilman, Perry.

Goals: Jimenez (15, 45) Bennett (38), Forsythe (77, OG)

Referee: Nejc Kajtazovic (Slovenia)

Next up

Wolves face Armenia side Pyunik in the third qualifying round of the Europa League. The first leg is in Armenia next Thursday.