RCD Espanyol 3 (Calleri 16, 57 PEN & 90) Wolves 2 (Traore 22, Doherty 79)
Wolves’ unbeaten away record in the Europa League came to an end with a 3-2 defeat at RCD Espanyol, but the result was enough for the old gold to seal a place in the round of 16, after overcoming the Catalans 6-3 on aggregate.
Wolves twice came from behind to Jonathan Calleri goals, as Adama Traore and Matt Doherty put the ball in the back of the net in each half, but the Espanyol striker sealed his hat-trick in added time to give Espanyol victory on the evening.
In the largely forgettable opening stages to the match, it was the hosts who looked the most threatening, with Matias Vargas causing trouble down the left-hand side of Wolves, but side wearing their Europa League green kit did enough to cope with anything Espanyol could throw at them.
That was until 15 minutes into the tie when Adria Pedrosa was played into space down the host’s left before crossing the ball into the centre of the box and straight towards the onrushing Calleri who fired first-time past Rui Patricio from six yards out.
Wolves did not let that early set-back disrupt their rhythm and were soon back on level terms in the evening, with Espanyol now requiring five goals if they were to stop their opponents from advancing.
Following good work in the centre of the pitch by Joao Moutinho, the midfielder found Daniel Podence on the right who powered down the line before crossing to Traore at the edge of the box, and despite several blue and white shirts surrounding him, after his first shot was blocked, the speedster fired a low drive past Andre Prieto with his second attempt.
Wolves supporters’ hearts would have been in their mouths at the half-hour mark when Calleri went down inside the box closely marked by Doherty after he was found by a curling low cross by Vargas, but fortunately for the visitors, the assistant referee’s flag was up for offside against the former West Ham United striker.
Neither side were able to trouble their opposition goalkeepers as the half drew to a close, but Wolves did put pressure on the Espanyol backline with Podence and Traore linking up with a long cross-field ball, and after the ball fell to Morgan Gibbs-White on the edge of the box, the midfielder was unable to lay the ball into the path of Podence who had made a run into space from the right.
Half-time: Espanyol 1 Wolves 1 (1-5 agg)
Early in the second-half, Wolves had an opportunity to double their advantage on the evening and put the tie well out of sight as Podence made a darting run up the pitch towards the edge of the Espanyol area. As he left defenders trailing, the forward found space before launching a strike towards the hosts’ goal, but his effort was high of Prieto’s crossbar.
Moments later, the Portuguese disposed the Espanyol defence and seeing Prieto off his line, attempted an audacious lob from 35 yards which drifted well wide.
However, it was the hosts and Calleri who got their second of the night as he scored from the spot, firing a low drive to Patricio’s left, after Maximilian Kilman put a high challenge on David Lopez in the Wolves penalty area.
The visitors almost came back once again on the hour mark when Doherty was played through by Traore and after dragging defenders out of position, laid the ball off to Gibbs-White, but the young midfielder, who appeared to get pulled back as he went to shoot, couldn’t get his effort on target from the edge of the box.
Wolves were able to take advantage when they caught Espanyol napping from a quick throw in, as Kilman found Podence in an otherwise offside position if it wasn’t direct from a throw in, and after racing down the left, Podence’s cross to the far post was hammered in from close range by Doherty.
Although the result of the tie was all but secured, Wolves could have secured victory on the evening, but Pedro Neto, who capitalised on slack defending by Espanyol, found himself one-on-one with Prieto, and after rounding the keeper, put the ball wide of the upright as the net was gaping.
Espanyol once again went ahead through Calleri, who completed his hat-trick when he headed past Patricio following a well-worked free-kick. Despite the result of the second leg, Wolves still booked a place in the last 16 of the competition.
Full-time: Espanyol 3 Wolves 2 (3-6 agg)
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: Patricio, Doherty, Boly, Coady, Kilman, Vinagre (Saiss 58), Dendoncker, Moutinho, Gibbs-White (Neto 64), Podence, Traore (Jordao 78).
Unused subs: Ruddy, Buur, Campana, Jimenez.
Referee: Marco Guida (Italy)