Wolves 0-1 SC Braga | Match report

Wolves 0 SC Braga 1 (R Horta 71)

Wolves welcomed the Europa League group stages to Molineux for the first time but were unable to celebrate the occasion with a result to match, as SC Braga returned to Portugal with all three points thanks to Ricardo Horta’s second-half strike.

The hosts enjoyed the better of proceedings and squandered big opportunities which fell to Patrick Cutrone and Leander Dendoncker, before being hit by Braga’s sucker punch. The Portuguese hit Wolves on the counter attack, with Horta finishing good work by Galena in a rare flurry forward.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side continued to ask questions in their first of six group games, but Matheus in the Braga goal watched Raul Jimenez’s late header drop wide, and Wolves failed to get any closer, as they suffered the narrowest of defeats.

The tie brought with it a piece of history, as Wolves hosted Europa League group stage football for the first time and the atmosphere inside Molineux reflected the occasion. The decibels would have rose even higher if Ruben Neves’ ambitious, but dipping volley had dropped in time to beat Matheus in the Braga goal.

Nuno Espirito Santo had tinkered with his side, with Cutrone rewarded for his goal against Chelsea with a start against the Portuguese side and, after Jimenez wrestled for possession and fed his strike partner, Cutrone was unlucky when firing over on his left foot.  

The best chance of the half fell to the Italian too, just 90 seconds before the break. He was put through on goal by Matt Doherty’s pinpoint pass but, with Matheus advancing on him, the striker went for power and fired wide of the goal.

Half-time: Wolves 0 SC Braga 0

After the break, Joao Paulinho forced Rui Patricio into his first save of the evening, but the goalkeeper enjoyed a routine save. Instead, Wolves looked the far hungrier side and passed up another fine chance when Jimenez miscued from a Cutrone pass and Matheus denied Dendoncker’s effort with his feet.

On 66 minutes Morgan Gibbs-White, who’d impressed in midfield, was replaced by Joao Moutinho, however, it was the visitors who’d take the lead on 70 minutes. Once Ryan Bennett relinquished possession, Braga broke with pace through Galeno, who squared for Ricardo Horta to slam home.

Diogo Jota was Nuno’s response, replacing Dendoncker with 15 minutes remaining. Refusing to lie down, Wolves continued to press and Jimenez headed Boly’s cross straight at the goalkeeper, before the defender himself let fly and tested the stopper, who was taking every opportunity to slow down the play.

Neves was next to test the goalkeeper with a typical drive from range then, with time almost up, desperate Braga defending kept out Jimenez’s side-footed effort, while his strike partner Cutrone shot off target before Jimenez glanced the final chance of the contest wide, meaning Wolves suffered defeat in matchday one.

Full-time: Wolves 0 SC Braga 1

Wolves: Patricio, Doherty (Traore 80), Bennett, Coady, Boly, Jonny, Neves, Dendoncker (Jota 76), Gibbs-White (Moutinho 67), Cutrone, Jimenez.

Unused subs: Ruddy, Vinagre, Saiss, Neto.

Braga: Matheus, Esgaio, Viana, Santos, Sequeira, Fransergio, Palhinha, A Horta (Novais 86), R Horta (Costa 88), Paulinho, Galeno (Francisco 84).

Unused subs: Eduardo, Caludemir, Hassan, Viana.