FC Pyunik 0 Wolves 4 (Doherty 29, Jimenez 42 & 46, Neves 90)
Wolves made history in the Armenian capital of Yerevan by sealing a four-goal win away from home in major European competition for the first time ever against FC Pyunik.
Diogo Jota had a helping hand in the opening three goals as Wolves came away from the Republican Stadium with a healthy lead to take into the second leg of their Europa League clash at Molineux next Thursday evening.
Raul Jimenez’s double, an early effort from the returning Matt Doherty and a late penalty from Ruben Neves made it a comfortable third qualifying round trip to Armenia for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.
The Wolves head coach made three changes to the side which started in the 4-1 win over Crusaders in Belfast during the previous round, with Doherty, Ruben Vinagre and Romain Saiss replacing Adama Traore, Jonny Otto and Neves.
The first-half started with both teams looking to hit on the attack, with Pyunik having the first chance on goal when Denis Mahmudov fired wildly over the bar from 25-yards out. Wolves attempted to build up play steadily throughout the first-half, with Jimenez having a shot blocked on the edge of the area.
Pyunik seemed to gain confidence during the opening stages and had a chance to take the lead when Karlen Mkrtchyan found space and launched an effort, but his shot flew wide of Rui Patricio’s right post.
With almost 30 minutes on the clock Wolves took the lead through the returning Doherty. The wing-back, who was making his first start of 2019/20 after suffering an injury early on in pre-season, was played clear through down the right-hand side of the Pyunik defence by Jota, before slotting the ball calmly past Andrija Dragojevic in the home goal.
Jota himself had a chance to double the visitors’ advantage just moments later, but after finding himself inside the area he let fly from an acute angle but could not keep his shot down, with the ball flying over the bar.
But it didn’t take much longer for Wolves to extend their lead through Jimenez. Jota raced in behind the Pyunik defence on the left before crossing the ball to his strike partner, who was unmarked in the centre of the area, and in acres of space the Mexican fired the ball home via the underside of the crossbar.
Half-time: Pyunik 0 Wolves 2
With less than 60 seconds on the clock Jimenez made it three for Wolves. Jota, with his hat-trick of assists, played the ball through to his attacking partner who was on the run behind the Pyunik defence. Cutting inside with just the goalkeeper to beat, Jimenez powered the ball past the outstretched right arm of Dragojevic and into the back of the net.
Wolves continued their pressure and came close to a fourth when Jota pulled the ball back to Dendoncker inside the box who aims the ball forwards, but just out of the reach of Jimenez’s stretching foot.
Despite being three goals down, Pyunik tried to take the game to their opponents and Artur Miranyan forced a good save from Rui Patricio in the Wolves goal when he launched a shot on target from 30 yards. Maksim Zhestokov then denied Wolves another goal when he cleared a Jimenez header off the line.
Just past the hour mark, Nuno replaced goalscorer Doherty and assister Jota with Jonny and Patrick Cutrone, who was making his competitive debut for Wolves after signing for AC Milan earlier in the transfer window.
Pyunik continued to push themselves back into the tie but struggled to get a clean effort in on goal, despite their good attacking play. Steven Alfred tested Patircio with a header on target, but the Wolves keeper dealt with the effort comfortably.
Wolves kept hold of possession throughout the remainder of the second-half and put the icing on the cake into injury time when Cutrone was fouled in the Pyunik penalty area by Serhiy Shevchuk.
Substitute Neves stepped up and calmly placed the ball into the bottom left corner of the net, to secure a historic European win for Wolves.
Full-time: Pyunik 0 Wolves 4
Pyunik: Dragojevic, Manucharyan, Marku, Zhestokov, Stankov, Mkrtchyan, Simonyan, Shevchuk, Mahmudov (Alfred 62), Efimov (Burzanovic 55), Miranyan.
Unused subs: Manukyan, Grigoryan, Belov, Yedigaryan, Galimov.
Wolves: Patricio, Doherty (Jonny 63), Bennett, Coady, Boly, Vinagre, Dendoncker, Saiss, Moutinho, Jota (Cutrone 53), Jimenez (Neves 71).
Unused subs: Ruddy, Vallejo, Kilman, Perry.
Referee: Michael Fabri (Italy)