By Richard Morgan
Football journalist - @Richiereds1976
Wolves 1-0 Slovan Bratislava: Raul Jimenez's header sees hosts near Europa League knockout phase
Wolves are second in Group K and need a point from their last two games to make the last 32
Last Updated: 08/11/19 9:30am
Raul Jimenez's late header saw Wolves beat Slovan Bratislava 1-0 to put Nuno Espirito Santo's side within touching distance the knockout stage of the Europa League.
The home side made up for Ruben Neves' missed penalty six minutes into the second half to claim a vital three points, in a match which saw Slovan defender Kenan Bajric suffer a horrific-looking head injury.
However, Wolves were made to wait until the second of 12 minutes of injury time at the end of the game to take the lead as club-record signing Jimenez headed home Adama Traore's inviting centre.
Home Team: Patricio (6), Kilman (7), Doherty (7), Coady (7), Vinagre (7), Dendoncker (7), Neves (7), Moutinho (7), Traore (8), Jimenez (7), Neto (7)
Subs: Bennett (6), Jonny (6), Cutrone (7)
Away Team: Greif (8), Medvedev (6), Abena (6), Bozhikov (6), De Marco (6), Bajric (7), De Kamps (6), Ratao (6), Ibrahim (6), Drazic (6), Sporar (6)
Subs: Daniel (6), Sukhotsky (6), Ljubicic (6)
Man of the match: Adama Traore
As a result, Wolves now need just a point to qualify with still two matches left to play in Group K.
How Wolves left it late to edge out Slovan
Despite playing their 23rd match of the season, the hosts started at a lively pace, with Traore causing the visitors no end of problems with his buccaneering and penetrative runs down the right.
From one such early dribble, Pedro Neto spurned a glorious opportunity to volley his side in front, before the increasingly busy Dominik Greif had to be alert to keep out Joao Moutinho's deflected drive.
Wolves made three changes from their weekend draw at Arsenal, with defender Matt Doherty starting despite being forced off at the Emirates with a knee injury. Forward Diogo Jota was suspended, while Morgan Gibbs-White missed out with a back injury. Meanwhile, centre-back Ryan Bennett had recovered from a groin problem, but had to settle for a place on the bench.
However, apart from another smart stop from Greif to turn behind Jimenez's low shot, Wolves struggled thereafter to impose themselves on tactically disciplined opponents, who themselves were a threat on the break.
But just after half-time, the hosts were given a wonderful chance to take the lead after Slovan captain Vasil Bozhikov clipped Neto's heels, although there was some doubt as to whether the foul took place in the area or just outside.
Without VAR, which is only introduced in the knockout phase of the competition, referee Bas Nijhuis pointed to the spot, although the subsequent delay while Neto received treatment may have affected Neves, whose penalty was placed too close to Greif.
And that miss seemed to knock the Wolves players' confidence, as did the late head injury to Slovan centre-back Bajric, who required almost 10 minutes of treatment after being accidentally kicked in the head by Jimenez as the striker attempted an overhead kick.
But the Mexico international regathered his composure to rise highest and power home a far-post header - his fourth in five and 12th so far this season - after being picked out by Traore's inch-perfect cross from the right.
- Wolves have won three consecutive games in major European competition for the first time since winning their opening six in the 1971-72 UEFA Cup campaign - a season that saw them reach the final of the competition
- Slovan have won just one of their 16 Europa League group stage games (D2 L13), beating Besiktas 4-2 on MD1 this season
- Each of Wolves' last 11 goals in all competitions have come in the second half
- Slovan have lost all four of their away games against English opponents in European competition by an aggregate score of 3-19
- Neves' penalty miss ended a run of 14 converted spot-kicks for Wolves in all competitions, since Neves himself also missed against Sheffield United in the Championship in September 2017
- Since the start of last season, Jimenez has scored 29 goals for Wolves in all competitions, 15 more than any other player for the club in that time
What the manager said...
"We had to be patient but I thought we played well and created a lot of chances," said Nuno.
"We combined well and dominated against a good team, they are an organised team. If you allow space to them then it is difficult. Good team and good players and a good coach.
"It took time but it was a fantastic moment for the team. We were pushed on by Molineux so it was good for everyone."
Man of the Match - Adama Traore
The pacy winger has been in sparking form of late and he continued that with another impressive display to help his team beat Slovan on Thursday night.
The Spain wide man caused the Slovaks no end of problems with his direct running down the right wing, creating one wonderful early opening that Neto spurned.
And it was from another of those clever dribbles that Wolves finally made the breakthrough in injury time as his inviting cross was headed home by Jimenez.
Wolves take on Aston Villa at Molineux in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon (2pm), with the game being shown live on Sky Sports Premier League.