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Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Espanyol. Europa League Round of 32.

MolineuxAttendance30,435.

Wolverhampton Wanderers 4

  • D Jota (15th minute, 67th minute, 81st minute)
  • R Neves (52nd minute)

Espanyol 0

    Wolves 4-0 Espanyol: Diogo Jota scores hat-trick in Europa League thrashing

    Wolves are on the brink of the Europa League last 16 after Diogo Jota hat-trick against Espanyol at Molineux

    Thursday 20 February 2020 23:30, UK

    Diogo Jota celebrates scoring Wolves' third goal against Espanyol
    Image: Diogo Jota celebrates scoring Wolves' third goal against Espanyol

    Diogo Jota scored a hat-trick as Wolves thrashed Espanyol 4-0 in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie at Molineux.

    Ruben Neves also scored a trademark wonder goal, volleying home from distance, to ensure the Premier League side have one foot in the last 16 with the second leg still to play.

    The game had been in the balance at the break with Jota's first goal separating the sides, but Neves' strike early in the second half saw Espanyol heads drop and Wolves capitalised in style.

    Player ratings

    Wolves: Patricio (6); Boly (8), Coady (7), Saiss (7); Doherty (7), Neves (9), Moutinho (7), Jonny (7); Traore (7), Jimenez (7), Jota (9).

    Subs: Dendoncker (7), Neto (7), Podence (6)

    Espanyol: Prieto (6); Gomez (6), Naldo (5), Calero (5), Didac Vila (6); Vargas (6), Iturraspe (5), Victor Sanchez (5), Melendo (7); Ferreyra (6), Wu Lei (6).

    Subs: Calleri (6), Lopez (6) Darder (5)

    Man of the Match: Diogo Jota

    How Wolves won it

    This was Wolves 13th Europa League game of the season and there was a confident mood in the stadium with Nuno Espirito Santo's side having won five of the previous six at Molineux.

    It was a quiet start to the contest but when Adama Traore went on one of his attacking runs down the right wing and won a corner, the breakthrough goal followed.

    Joao Moutinho's cross was flicked on by Raul Jimenez and the ball fell nicely for Jota to force an effort past goalkeeper Andres Prieto and into the Espanyol net.

    La Liga's bottom club have endured a difficult season but form has picked up under new coach Abelardo and the visitors were almost presented with an equaliser soon after.

    More on this story

    Wolves' Adama Traore battles for possession with Matias Vargas of Espanyol
    Image: Adama Traore battles for possession with Matias Vargas of Espanyol

    Ruben Neves skewed the ball back to Rui Patricio and with the goalkeeper reluctant to claim it he attempted a volley instead and made a horrible mess of it.

    Facundo Ferreyra had the opportunity to beat Patricio from close range but the Portugal No 1 managed to recover sufficiently to keep out the attempt.

    Team news

    Wolves restored Diogo Jota and Joao Moutinho to the team after the pair were benched for the visit of Leicester on Friday. Pedro Neto and Leander Dendoncker made way.

    Espanyol, perhaps with an eye on staying in La Liga, made nine changes to their line-up with Raul de Tomas, with five goals in his previous five games, not involved in the squad.

    That was a warning for Wolves but they could well have gone in at the interval a man up as well as a goal up when Ander Iturraspe was fortunate to avoid a red card.

    The midfielder squared up to Jota near the touchline and moved his head towards the goalscorer in an aggressive fashion but escaped with only a yellow card.

    There was no escaping Neves, though. The Wolves midfielder was on fine form all evening and lit up the night with a volley from range that arrowed past Prieto to double the lead.

    It was a stunning goal to add to his collection and took the game away from Espanyol. That was confirmed midway through the second half when Jota added a third.

    Diogo Jota (R) celebrates scoring with Wolves team-mate Joao Moutinho
    Image: Jota has scored back-to-back hat-tricks in the Europa League

    Matt Doherty, freed up to attack after Traore's withdrawal, threaded a ball between Naldo and Victor Gomez and Jota was on hand to force the ball in at the near post via a deflection.

    Wolves almost added a fourth when substitute Pedro Neto struck the angle of post and bar from distance with a quarter of an hour remaining.

    But Jota had the final say when he danced past several markers on the edge of the box before finishing powerfully beyond Prieto to complete his hat-trick.

    This was the Portuguese forward's second treble of the season having also scored three on his previous Europa League appearance here against Besiktas in December.

    It puts Nuno's side in a strong position to progress and extend their Europa League adventure to at least 16 games. Wolves supporters don't want the journey to end.

    Nuno's verdict

    "It was a good performance, better in the second half, first half not so good," said Nuno afterwards. "We scored some beautiful goals but despite the result, the tie isn't over."

    Opta stats

    • In a run stretching back to October 1973, Wolves have won 10 of their last 11 home games in all European competition, winning to nil in each of their last three.
    • Wolves forward Raul Jimenez has been directly involved in 30 goals in all competitions this season (20 goals, 10 assists); three more than any other Premier League player.
    • Twelve of Ruben Neves' 15 goals for Wolves in all competitions have come from outside the box, the other three have been from the penalty spot.
    • Wolves forward Diogo Jota is the first player to score back-to-back hat-tricks in the Europa League since Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for Schalke against Viktoria Plzen and FC Twente in February/March 2012.

    What's next?

    Espanyol resume their relegation battle against Valladolid on Sunday, while for Wolves it's a game back here at Molineux against Premier League bottom club Norwich.

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