Raúl Jiménez heads Wolves to verge of Europa League knockout stage | Football


Wolves are tantalisingly close to the Europa League knockout phase thanks to a stoppage-time goal by Raúl Jiménez. One point from their two remaining games will send Nuno Espírito Santo’s men into the last 32 of the first major European competition that their club has contested for nearly four decades.

But the football intrigue was overridden by concern for the Slovan Bratislava midfielder Kenan Bajric, who suffered a serious head injury after being caught by an attempted overhead kick by Jiménez just before the goal.

After lengthy treatment on the pitch, the concussed Bajric left on a stretcher. “He will not be coming home with us, he will stay to be observed,” said the Slovan manager, Jan Kozak. Jiménez said he prayed for Bajric while on the pitch. “I hope he recovers well,” said the striker.

The teams had to put their thoughts for Bajric to one side to complete the game. Sadly for Slovan, Wolves used the additional time to earn victory.

For a long time Dominik Greif stalled Wolves’ progress. The goalkeeper turned away everything Wolves could fire at him, including Rúben Neves’s penalty in the 51st minute. Jiménez finally beat Greif from close range in the second of 12 minutes of stoppage time, heading in a cross from the right by Adama Traoré.

“We had to be patient,” said Nuno, who praised Greif but lamented his own team’s finishing. “Greif did a very good job but we have to improve,” Nuno said. “We had chances where we could have done better. We arrived many times to the end line and the action must be finished.”

Rúben Neves sees his penalty saved by Dominik Greif.

Rúben Neves sees his penalty saved by Dominik Greif. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

Neves provided the clearest example of poor finishing. Jiménez is normally merciless from the spot but he shares penalty-taking duties with Neves and it was the latter’s turn to step up after Pedro Neto was tripped by Vasil Bozhikov. “He kicked it very bad,” Nuno said. “You have to give credit to the goalkeeper but it’s the perfect spot to stop it: medium high and slow. Bad! He has to practise tomorrow. A lot.”

Slovan, two points behind Wolves going into this game, made it clear from the start that they had not come to play the saps. Wolves were the first to threaten, Neto blasting wide after Traoré hurtled down the right. Then Slovan showed their menace but Bajric could not find the target after running on to a corner at the back post.

Andraz Sporar had scored four goals in Slovan’s three previous group games and had to be watched closely by a Wolves defence featuring Leander Dendoncker, the midfielder having been reassigned to the right-hand side of the back three owing to Willy Boly’s injury. The Dutchman showed his defensive credentials by sliding in to cut out a dangerous low cross by Sporar in the fifth minute, denying Slovan a tap-in.

Greif had to claw away a deflected shot by João Moutinho from the edge of the area. Then, as Wolves threatened to take control, Jiménez ran on to a wonderfully measured pass by Matt Doherty and lashed a low cross-shot towards the far corner. Greif again reacted well, tipping it around the post.

At the start of the second half Wolves got the perfect opportunity for a breakthrough but Neves flopped from the spot. Ten minutes later, with Wolves dominating possession, the goalkeeper was at it again, denying Doherty from close range after a chipped pass by Moutinho. That resistance looked set to endure until Jiménez’s late strike.


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