FC Pyunik 0 Wolves 4 (Doherty 29, Jimenez 42, 46, Neves pen 90+1 mins)
Raul Jimenez bagged his second successive brace as Wolves completed a historic Europa League win and put one foot into the play-off.
Their 4-0 victory at Armenian side FC Pyunik in the third qualifying round was their equal biggest away success in European competition, overtaking last week’s 4-1 victory at Belfast side Crusaders and the UEFA Cup results against Academica Coimbra in 1971-72 and Lokomotiv Leipzig in 1973-74 by the same scoreline. The margin of victory surely makes next Thursday’s return at Molineux a formality for a place in the play-off.
Matt Doherty broke the deadlock on his return from a knee injury, and the deadly Jimenez made the rest of the game a formality after scoring either side of half-time on 42 minutes and 46 to take his tally to four goals in three games so far, before substitute Ruben Neves netted a late penalty in a thoroughly dominant Wolves display which included three assists from Diogo Jota.
Head coach Nuno Espirito Santo made three changes from the side that beat Crusaders, with Doherty, Romain Saiss and Ruben Vinagre replacing Adama Traore – who couldn’t travel because he forgot his passport – Neves and Jonny Castro Otto.
Pyunik made a lively start and created the first chance when Denis Mahmudov was presented with a sight of goal, but could only balloon his shot well over the bar after some pressure from the hosts. The home side threatened again with a far-post header from Antonio Stankov which flew a yard wide from a free kick.
But Wolves soon got into the game, their wing backs pushing forward at every opportunity. Vinagre did just that in the 27th minute, beating three players in a pacy, determined run only for his cross to drop into the arms of goalkeeper Andrija Dragojevic.
Wolves broke the deadlock with a composed finish from Doerhty, tucking a low left-foot shot inside the near post after a pass from Jota just before the half hour, and they never looked back after that.
Jota should have made it 2-0 only to fire well over courtesy of a bobble after Joao Moutinho slotted him through in the inside left position. The midfielder had options in abundance, with Leander Dendoncker racing through the middle screaming for a pass and Jimenez peeling off to the right as Wolves outnumbered Pyunik on the break.
The visitors grabbed a second goal three minutes before half-time when Jimenez picked his spot with a rising effort after controlling Jota’s squared pass in the box following another penetrating run from Vinagre down the left.
If there was any doubt as to the outcome of the game, it disappeared within 35 seconds of the restart when Wolves made it 3-0. Jota, again the architect, spotted the run of Jimenez darting down the right and laid a ball into his path for the striker to take in his stride and chip into the far corner of the net.
Wolves looked in rampant mood now and two minutes later, Jota was the creator again, this time with a cross from the left. Dendoncker, stretching, couldn’t make good contact with an attempted header as a deflection took the ball slightly behind him, and the off-balance Jimenez poked wide.
Out of the blue, Pyunik broke to produce their first on-target effort. Artur Miranyan let fly from 30 yards, forcing Rui Patricio to smother to his right. But normal service was resumed when Maksim Zhestokov nodded a Jimenez header off the line following Vinagre’s cross.
With the game under control, Wolves made a double substitution in the 63rd minute which brought a debut for the new number 10, £20m striker Patrick Cutrone, and Jonny, replacing Jota and Doherty respectively.
There was still time for Pyunik to threaten again with a twisting header from Steven Arnold caught under the bar by Patricio.
But Wolves weren’t done and gave the scoreline an even more emphatic look when Neves scored a penalty with a fierce low shot to Dragojevic’s right after Cutrone, dribbling into the box on the right, had been needlessly tripped by Serhiy Shevchuk.
The margin of victory was particularly appreciated by the 47 Wolves supporters who made the trip, paying £1m admission but over £1,000 in flights with less than a week’s notice for a round trip of some 6,370 miles.
Pyunik: Dragojevic, Manucharyan, Marku, Zhestokov, Stankov, Mkrtchyan, Simonyan, Shevchuk, Mahmudov (Alfred 62), Efimov (Burzanovic 55), Miranyan.
Subs not used: Manukyan, Grigoryan, Belov, Yedigaryan, Galimov.
Wolves: Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty (Jonny 63), Dendoncker, Saiss, Moutinho, Vinagre; Jota (Cutrone 63), Jimenez (Neves 71).
Subs not used: Ruddy, Vallejo, Kilman, Perry.
Referee: Michael Fabri (Italy).