Olympiacos 1 (El Arabi 54) Wolves 1 (Neto 67)
Pedro Neto’s deflected strike earned Wolves an invaluable away goal to return home from Athens with, after a 1-1 draw behind closed doors against Olympiacos. In an eerie atmosphere, which did a disservice to the occasion, Wolves kept their professionalism and came from behind to earn a draw in Greece.
The hosts played more than an hour with ten men after Ruben Semedo fouled Diogo Jota on his way to goal, but despite that blow, Olympiacos took the lead when Youssef El Arabi tapped in at the back post. However, Wolves knew an away goal was imperative, and Neto’s powerful drive took a fortuitous deflection to keep Wolves well in the tie when returning to Molineux.
On paper it was a tie of huge significance for Wolves, who were competing in the Europa League last 16 just two years after plying their trade in the Championship, however, the empty stadium inevitably affected the tempo, with a low-key contest, low on chances to follow.
The peculiar night brought little in the way of openings early on, with both teams feeling each other out, in front of a sprinkling of Olympiacos supporters, who had bypassed the entry ban to vocally back their team, who struck the bar through an offside Giorgos Masouras.
The first moment of note arrived on the half-hour and was damaging for the hosts. When Raul Jimenez expertly sent Jota charging at Semedo one against one, the defender was in trouble and the forward’s jinx teased out the foul, which resulted in a red card for Semedo.
However, the dismissal did little to alter the laboured first-half. It took until 43 minutes for the first genuine shot on goal, which saw Joao Moutinho gain possession in a dangerous area and feed Adama Traore, but the Spaniard dragged his effort well wide, before the two teams went in for the break.
Half-time: Olympiacos 0 Wolves 0
At the break Nuno Espirito Santo made a statement. On a booking, Matt Doherty was withdrawn, with Traore slotting in at right-wing-back and Neto stepping in further forward. However, within ten minutes of the restart it was the hosts who took the lead.
A bursting run from Guilherme saw him side-step Conor Coady and fire across the face of goal, leaving El Arabi with the simple task of knocking into an open goal.
The Olympiacos goal brought Wolves to life however, and Neto slipped in Jimenez to slam an effort into the face of Jose Sa, before Ruben Neves curled wide from distance soon after.
The warning signs were there and on 67 minutes Wolves bagged themselves a crucial away goal. After Jota was fouled on the edge of the penalty area, Moutinho and Neto stood over the free-kick, the former flicked for the latter to blast goalwards and benefit from a deflection, which took his effort beyond Sa.
After that, Wolves continued to press for a winner, with Neto forcing Sa into a save at his near post and Jimenez flashing an effort wide from distance, but Nuno’s side had to settle for a point and a big away goal ahead of the second leg at Molineux.
Full-time: Olympiacos 1 Wolves 1
Olympiacos: Sa, Elabdellaoui, Semedo, Ba, Tsimikas, Guilherme, Camara, Masouras (Cisse 33), El Arabi (Fortounis 74), Valbuena (Gaspar 84).
Unused subs: Allain, Lovera, Torosidis, Randjelovic.
Wolves: Patricio, Doherty (Neto 46), Boly, Coady, Saiss, Vinagre (Podence 79), Neves, Moutinho (Dendoncker 85), Traore, Jota, Jimenez.
Unused subs: Ruddy, Kilman, Buur, Jordao.