Report | Wolves 2-0 Gillingham

Wolves 2 (Jimenez pen 77, Ait-Nouri 90) Gillingham 0

Substitutes Raul Jimenez and Rayan Ait-Nouri ensured the Julen Lopetegui era got off to a winning start by hitting second half strikes to see off Gillingham and secure Wolves’ place in the quarter finals of the Carabao Cup.

The old gold had to be patient to break down their resolute League Two opponents, but through a pair of substitutes they eventually found a way, as Hee Chan Hwang was fouled in the area and Jimenez tucked home from 12 yards out.

The cup tie gave Lopetegui a first glimpse of his side in competitive action, and although the performance wasn’t vintage, Wolves made the game safe when Ait-Nouri fired home from close range in added time to secure a place in Thursday’s draw.

A period of 38 days between Wolves’ last game and this did little to hinder the old gold’s start, as Hugo Bueno and Joao Moutinho exchanged passes in the opening two minutes for the former to test Jake Turner with a stinging drive.

That early chance came in a start where Wolves dominated possession but struggled to break down their compact visitors. It was an evening where Wolves needed a creative spark, and when Daniel Podence clipped a ball over the Gills defence, they almost found it, but Diego Costa’s improvised back header dropped wide of the mark.

Ruben Neves, fresh from World Cup duty with Portugal, was next to try his luck after Joao Moutinho was pushed on the edge of the box, but while his free-kick beat the wall, it flew past Turner’s post. Podence did at least test Turner soon after, while Joe Hodge should have scored three minutes before the break but headed Goncalo Guedes’ cross wide from close range.

However, the closest moment was saved for the stroke of half-time. Guedes’ corner was left by Podence, to Neves who was lurking on the edge of the box, and he caught it sweetly in classic Neves fashion, but the ball didn’t bend enough in time and cannoned back off the outside of the post.

Half-time | Wolves 0-0 Gillingham

At the break, and soon after it, Lopetegui rang the changes, but the Gills were remaining resolute and happy to watch chances such a Semedo’s wayward shot, fly wide of the target. One new introduction was Adama from the bench and his cross for Costa was turned over at the near post by the Spaniard.

With 20 minutes remaining, Wolves turned to Jimenez, making his first appearance since August, joining Costa in a two-prong attack, and soon after his introduction he headed Bueno’s corner on to the roof of the net.

However, the Mexican wouldn’t be denied. Another Bueno delivery moments later caused carnage inside the box, and as Hwang was hauled down, referee Michael Salisbury pointed to the spot. Up stepped Jimenez and with his trademark run up, unsettling the goalkeeper, before placing into the corner.

That goal was a long time coming, but from that point Wolves were able to relax, and as the board went up for added time, the old gold countered through Hwang and he laid his ball on plate for Ait-Nouri, who controlled and fired home from close range.

With the Gills’ race run, Lopetegui’s side could have even had a third when Jimenez clipped a fine ball for Hwang to run through, and although his turn left Turner on the floor, the South Korean could only loft over the bar, but the tie was won and Wolves were through.

Full-time | Wolves 2-0 Gillingham

Wolves | Sa, Semedo, Collins, Kilman, Bueno, Hodge (Adama 46), Neves, Moutinho (Hwang 61), Podence (Jimenez 69), Guedes (Nunes 61), Costa (Ait-Nouri 81).

Unused subs | Sarkic, Lembikisa, Toti, Ronan.

Gillingham | Turner, Alexander, Tutonda, Wright, Ehmer, Williams (Lee 74), O’Keefe (MacDonald 74), Mandron (Kashket 64), Jefferies (Reeves 74), Adelakun, Baggott.

Unused subs | Holtam.