Wolves took the early advantage in the first leg of their Europa League play-off round tie with Serie A side Torino following a 3-2 win in Turin on Thursday night. Here are five things we noticed as Nuno Espitiro Santo’s side continued their unbeaten start to the season.
1. AWAY GOALS BONUS
By scoring three times at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino on Thursday night, Wolves put themselves in the driving seat heading into next week’s second leg back at Molineux. Torino now need to win their away trip by two goals to make it into the Europa League group stages, but Wolves have the advantage of those three away goals. This means that even a 1-0 or 2-1 loss to Torino next Thursday night would be enough for Nuno’s men to make their first ever appearance in the group stages of the competition.
2. A FAMILIAR SETTING
Thursday night’s game was not the first time a Wolves side have played at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino. The last time Wolves won more than two European ties in a row was during the 1971/72 season – the very first year of the UEFA Cup – when Wolves got all the way to the final of the competition before falling to Tottenham Hostpur. But on the way to the final, Bill McGarry’s Wolves side faced Juventus in the quarter-finals at the Torino ground, with Jim McCalliog’s goal securing a 1-1 draw on their travels. With everything to play for in the second leg back at Molineux, the home side came out on top, winning 2-1 thanks to goals from Danny Hegan and Derek Dougan.
3. CHANGES MAKING THE DIFFERENCE
Nuno made four changes to the side which started Monday’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United, with Jesus Vallejo, Adama Traore, Ruben Vinagre and Romain Saiss coming into the starting 11 in place of Ryan Bennett, Matt Doherty, Jonny and Ruben Neves. All four of the players had an impact on the game, with Saiss heavily involved in the opening goal of the game to head a Joao Moutinho cross past Sirigu in the Torino net, while Traore was giving the Italian players nightmares with his constant pace – carrying on from his impressive second-half display against United earlier in the week. This culminated in a terrific run through Torino’s backline to put the ball on a plate for Diogo Jota to notch Wolves’ second of the night.
4. THE UNBEATABLES
Thursday’s Europa League tie was Wolves’ ninth match in all competitions since the start of the 2019/20 campaign, including two Premier League Asia Trophy matches, five Europa League games and two Premier League fixtures – and Wolves haven’t lost a single one of them. It’s an impressive start to the season for Nuno’s side, who will be high in spirits going into Sunday’s Premier League clash with Burnley at Molineux – a side who many say had their league performances compromised by their own Europa League qualification campaign last season; which included a 1-0 defeat to Wolves at Molineux, where Raul Jimenez got on the scoresheet for the home side.
5. STILL ALL TO PLAY FOR
Although delighted with his team’s performance in Turin, Nuno knows a lot of work is still to be done if Wolves are to overcome Torino back at Molineux. Torino provided a stern test in a hostile environment at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino on Thursday night, but the 1,500 Wolves supporters were as loud as ever to cheer on their side for the whole 90 minutes. But a late penalty for the home team means it’s very much game on in the return leg next week.
Following the match, Nuno said: “It’s far from being over, it’s a close tie. We have to play next week against a very, very tough and a very good team.
“We played good, we were organised, we stayed in shape, we produced some goals but, like I say, there’s still one game to go and we have to be really, really good to perform again against a very, very good team.”