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Wolves still chasing Euro dream despite narrow defeat to Espanyol – report

RCD Espanyol 3 (Calleri 16, 57 pen, 90+1) Wolves 2 (Traore 22, Doherty 79)

Much-changed Wolves sealed their place in the last 16 of the Europa League – although a first defeat on the continent in seven trips this season might have been avoided but for Pedro Neto’s missed open goal.

A hat-trick from Jonathan Calleri meant Wolves conceded three goals or more for only the fourth time in 45 games in all competitions this season as the Catalans chased a four-goal deficit from the first leg.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side twice equalised through Adama Traore and Matt Doherty, only for Argentinian former West Ham loan striker Calleri to complete his treble in the first minute of time added on after Neto’s astonishing miss.

Nuno rested Romain Saiss, Ruben Neves, Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota, while the injured Jonny Castro Otto didn’t travel, and they were replaced by Max Kilman, Ruben Vinagre, Morgan Gibbs-White, Traore and Daniel Podence – who made his first start for the club – as Wolves lined up in a 3-5-2 formation with the latter two up front.

Espanyol took the lead with the first meaningful attack of the game to reward their superior start.

With just over a quarter of an hour gone, Adria Pedrosa found himself in space collecting a pass on the left and his cross was met on the run by Calleri, who swept the ball past goalkeeper Rui Patricio from six yards.

Undeterred, Wolves were determined not to allow the early setback to get to them and they levelled within six minutes.

Joao Moutinho did well in midfield before working the ball out to the right to Podence.

The former Olympiakos winger sped down the right before whipping in a low cross for Traore. The electric forward’s first attempt was blocked, but he prodded home an angled shot into the opposite corner of the net at the second time of asking, despite goalkeeper Andres Prieto getting a good hand to the ball.

Wolves enjoyed a rare marginal decision go their way on the half hour when Calleri went down in the box under challenge from Matt Doherty following a cross from winger Matias Vargas, but the flag went up for offside against the striker.

The visitors might have gone into the lead for the first time in the second leg just before half-time following a quick counter attack.

Wolves briskly made their way up the pitch through Podence and Traore before Gibbs-White was released on the edge of the box. But the midfielder’s shot flew a yard too high.

Soon after the break, Wolves had another chance to lead on the night and take a five-goal advantage on aggregate.

The speedy Podence darted forwards before cutting inside from the left only to flash a rising effort comfortably over the bar.

The Portuguese was clearly sniffing blood and moments later robbed a defender and, spotting Prieto off his line, attempted an ambitious lob from around 40 yards only for his effort to drift well wide.

Wolves were soon punished for their misses as Espanyol again took the lead, this time from the spot. The visitors could have few complaints as Kilman was penalised for a high foot which caught David Lopez in the face as he attempted to clear.

Calleri outfoxed Patricio from the spot, casually curling his sidefooted penalty to the ’keeper’s left as he dived right to double his and Espanyol’s tally on the night.

Wolves threatened again on the hour mark when Traore played Doherty through on the right and the wing back teed up Gibbs-White, but the England Under-21 international fired over, claiming a push from behind.

Nuno’s side carved out the equaliser they deserved 11 minutes from time. A quick throw-in saw Kilman release Podence in an otherwise offside position and his centre was converted by Doherty at the far post to make it 2-2 on the evening.

Their tails up, the scene was set for Wolves to snatch the win, but substitute Neto somehow fired wide of an open goal after doing all the hard work.

After Wolves cleared a corner, the former Lazio forward capitalised on a mis-hit back pass by Adria Pedrosa on halfway, to find himself one-on-one with Prieto, and after rounding the keeper, put the ball wide of the upright with the net gaping.

Espanyol were able to punish Wolves once more as Calleri headed past Patricio to finish a well-worked free-kick for his treble.

But although the Catalans salvaged some pride, it was Wolves who had the last laugh to go through to the last 16 and Friday’s draw.

 

Espanyol: Prieto, Gomez, Naldo, Calero, Pedrosa, Melendo (Pipa 74), Sanchez (Lozano 61), David Lopez, Darder (Wu Lei 67), Vargas, Calleri.

Unused subs: Diego Lopez, Ferreyra, Cabrera, Embarba.

Wolves (3-5-2): Patricio; Boly, Coady, Kilman; Doherty, Dendoncker, Gibbs-White (Neto 64), Moutinho, Vinagre (Saiss 58); Traore (Jordao 78), Podence.

Unused subs: Ruddy, Buur, Campana, Jimenez.

Referee: Marco Guida (Italy).