Slovan Bratislava 1 (Sporar 11) Wolves 2 (Saiss 58, Jimenez 64)
Ten-man Wolves made it back-to-back wins in the Europa League group stages with a come from behind victory over Slovan Bratislava.
Romain Saiss cancelled out Andraz Sporar’s opener before Raul Jimenez secured the three points for Wolves in the ‘behind closed doors’ match, which took them into second place in the Group K table – two points ahead of their opponents.
Nuno Espirito Santo made five changes from the side which drew 1-1 with Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday, with Maximilian Kilman, Ruben Vinagre, Matt Doherty, Saiss and Morgan Gibbs-White being introduced into the starting 11.
In an extremely noisy Tehelne pole stadium, which saw almost 20,000 schoolchildren invited into the ground free of charge, it was the hosts who took the lead with just over 10 minutes on the clock.
Rabiu Ibrahim floated a lofted through ball from the centre of midfield between Conor Coady and Willy Boly and straight to the feet of the onrushing Sporar who took a touch before firing low and hard past Rui Patricio’s right.
Wolves, who had the best of the opportunities before Slovan took the lead, came close to equalising through Gibbs-White, who drove into the home defence before unleashing an effort from distance, but his shot curled away from Dominik Greif’s right-hand upright.
Despite having to deal with increased pressure from the hosts, it was Wolves who once again came closest to the second goal of the contest. Joao Moutinho’s free-kick into the centre of the Slovan penalty area found the head of Boly, but the Wolves defender couldn’t get his effort on target.
With the game passing into the single minute of added time, Gibbs-White came close once again to getting his side back on level terms, but his long-range looping volley was comfortable for Grief who watched the ball all to way is it dropped narrowly over his crossbar.
Half-time: Slovan 1 Wolves 0
Nuno brought Adama Traore off the bench in place of Patrick Cutrone to start the second-half and the change almost paid immediate dividends.
The pacey wide-man used his speed to burst through the Slovan defence on several occasions, and on one of them his cross made it to the feet of Jimenez who played the ball off to Gibbs-White, but the youngster couldn’t get a good enough contact to trouble Greif.
Up the other end of the pitch, Patricio had to be at his best to stop Sporar grabbing his second of the evening. A ball over the top was easily gathered by the home side’s star forward who took a touch before aiming hard at goal, but the Wolves stopper somehow got a hand to the ball and punch it over the crossbar.
Wolves’ much-improved second-half performance was rewarded with just under an hour of the match gone. Saiss picked up the ball in the centre of the pitch after a mistake by the home side before driving forward into the Slovan half. When about 25-yards out from goal, the versatile Moroccan let fly and Greif was unable to keep the ball from hitting the back of the net.
Just minutes later Wolves were awarded a penalty when Jimenez went down under pressure from De Marco. The Mexican dusted himself off to slot the spot-kick to the left of Greif to give Wolves the lead of the match.
The visitors continued to control the second-half but were dealt a hammer blow when substitute Diogo Jota was sent from the pitch following two bookings in less than a minute.
Wolves had to dig deep in the final stages of the match, but were able to hang on to the scoreline and take the three points back to Molineux.
Full-time: Slovan 1 Wolves 2
Slovan: Greif, Medvedev, Abena, Bozhikov, De Marco, Ibrahim (Cavric 81), De Kamps, Daniel (Ratao 67), Holman (Ljubicic 57), Rharsalla, Sporar.
Unused subs: Sulla, Drazic, Nono, Bajric.
Wolves: Patricio, Doherty, Boly, Coady, Kilman, Vinagre, Saiss (Dendoncker 76), Moutinho, Gibbs-White (Jota 59), Cutrone (Traore 46), Jimenez.
Unused subs: Ruddy, Jonny, Neves, Perry.
Referee: Yevhenii Aranovskiy (UKR)