Wolves 0-1 Braga: Ricardo Horta consigns hosts to defeat in Europa League group stage bow
Premier League side kick off their Europa League group campaign with defeat at Molineux
By Ben Grounds
Last Updated: 19/09/19 11:58pm
Wolves' disappointing start to the new season continued as they were beaten 1-0 at home to Braga in their Europa League group stage opener.
The West Midlands club made a losing return to major European competition for the first time in 39 years after Ricardo Horta's 71st-minute match-winning strike.
Patrick Cutrone and Leander Dendoncker both had chances to give Nuno Espirito Santo's side the lead at Molineux before Horta struck his fifth goal in four appearances in this year's competition.
Wolves join Besiktas on zero points in Group K after the Turkish giants were beaten 4-2 by Slovan Bratislava in Thursday night's other game.
Wolves: Rui Patricio (6), Bennett (5), Coady (6), Boly (7), Doherty (6), Dendoncker (6), Neves (7), Gibbs-White, (6) Jonny (7), Jimenez (6), Cutrone (6).
Subs: Jota (6), Moutinho (6), Traore (n/a)
Braga: Matheus (8), Ricardo Esgaio (7), Bruno Viana (8), Pablo Santos (7), Nuno Sequeira (8), Fransergio (7), Joao Palhinha (8), Andre Horta (7), Ricardo Horta (8), Paulinho (7), Galeno (7).
Subs: Joao Novais (n/a), Murilo Souza (n/a), Trincao (n/a)
Man of the match: Ricardo Horta
Defensive error costs Wolves again
Espirito Santo's side, who had won all six of their Europa League qualifiers, paid the price for another individual error as Ryan Bennett's slack pass was pounced upon by Wanderson Galeno before Horta produced a clinical finish at Rui Patricio's near post with 19 minutes remaining.
Wolves failed to register a shot on target during the opening 45 minutes in a contest that was short on incident.
Bennett, on his return to the Wolves side, made an important block to deny Fransergio before Braga felt they were denied a penalty when Galeno went down inside the box after minimal contact from Conor Coady, much to the chagrin of visiting head coach Ricardo Sa Pinto.
Wolves made five changes to the side that were beaten 5-2 by Chelsea as Bennett, Boly, Doherty, Gibbs-White and Cutrone returned.
The hosts ended the first half strongly and should have taken the lead when Cutrone collected Matt Doherty's pass from the right in between the two Braga centre-backs Bruno Viana and Pablo Santos, but the Italian dragged his shot wide.
Wolves, who last competed in Europe during the 1980/81 UEFA Cup, forced Braga goalkeeper Matheus Magalhaes into a first save just six minutes into the restart as Dendoncker was found by Jonny Otto's low cross, but the Belgian was denied from point blank range.
Moments after referee Jakob Kehlet had booked Nuno Sequeira for simulation inside the Wolves box, the Portuguese side were gifted the game's opening goal as Bennett's wayward pass was intercepted by Galeno who picked out Horta for a composed finish.
Braga negotiated the closing stages through good game management, with Matheus denying Ruben Neves from distance and they secured all three points after Raul Jimenez saw his near post header flash wide in the final minute of stoppage time.
Nuno seeks 'immediate reaction'
Nuno Espirito Santo: "We realise the situation that we are in. This is important. We face the reality and the reality says we not performing well so we have to analyse it and find solutions in the team to improve.
"This is what we have to do, we have to come strong on Sunday, we must react immediately.
"We have to take decisions and find solutions for the team because we have to come out of this situation and improve our performance so we can bounce back.
"We have to analyse and see what's wrong with the team. Let's work on that aspect as a team. We are all disappointed. We didn't allow many chances and they had one chance and scored. That's the history of the game. The boys worked hard but this is football."
Man of the match: Ricardo Horta
There was plenty of fanfare and fireworks as Wolves sought to regain form in a competition that has served them well so far this season during the qualifiers, but in Braga, Espirito Santo's men came up against a team who have a love affair with this competition.
The Portuguese side reached the final in 2011 and have won two of their last three European away games in England, but in Horta they have the most in-form forward in this year's competition.
Willy Boly had done well to keep him relatively quiet for 71 minutes, but he was always seeking to bring in his team-mates and took his fifth goal of the season brilliantly.
- Wolves have lost three consecutive games in all competitions for the first time since November 2018. It's the first time they've failed to score at home in any competition since April.
- At Molineux, Wolves have suffered back-to-back defeats across all competitions for the first time since January 2019 (0-2 v Liverpool and 0-2 v Crystal Palace).
- Braga remain unbeaten in each of their opening group stage games of a Europa League campaign, winning four and drawing one (all four wins coming in away games).
Wolves travel to face Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Sunday - kick-off is at 2pm. Nuno's men travel to face Besiktas in their next Europa League assignment on October 3, kick off at 5.55pm.