A Win Was the Least Wolverhampton Wanderers Deserved Against Olympiakos

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Wolverhampton Wanderers edged past an impressive Olympiakos to set up a quarter-final tie with five-time Europa League winners Sevilla in Duisburg next Tuesday.

After a 1-1 first leg, one that took place in Greece all of five months ago, Wolves progress to the final eight in a competition they need to win if they are to play European football once again next season. Having won the Greek top-flight by 18 points, Olympiakos presented a stern test. Indeed, they certainly took the game to Wolves in what was a tense and captivating affair at Molineux.

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Cagey Affair

From the first whistle, it did not take long for Wolves to assert their authority. Early Olympiakos attempts to pass around the back were sniffed out by Wolves, until stand-in goalkeeper Bobby Allain made the crucial error which led to the opening goal. Inexplicably, the ‘keeper attempted to take the ball around the on-rushing Daniel Podence. His ultimate failure to do so led to a clumsy shove in the back, resulting in the referee pointing to the spot. The prolific Raul Jimenez made no mistake in giving Wolves the edge in the tie inside 10 minutes, sending the ‘keeper the wrong way.

However, to their credit, Olympiakos were clearly not in Wolverhampton simply to take a beating. A sweeping, well-worked one-two down the left flank allowed marauding left-back Konstantinos Tsimikas to force Rui Patricio into a save.

The contest almost flipped in the 28th minute, with Madi Camara finding the top corner from a cut-back. However, El Arabi was fractionally offside in the build-up, much to the despair of the Olympiakos bench.

Just before the break Daniel Podence, the game’s standout player, sprayed a pass out to Raul Jimenez on the break. The ensuing rabona effort got the virtual crowd off their seats, although it did little to trouble Allain’s goal. The game remained firmly in the balance going into half-time.

Second Half

The young Portuguese manager Pedro Martins galvanised his players as they came out swinging in the second period. El Arabi, the scorer in the first leg, was the man with the most opportunities. First, he failed to connect with a point-blank header and later could not find the net after fantastic work from his teammate Kostas Fortounis.

Meanwhile, Daniel Podence continued to cause problems at the other end by pouncing on some lax passing. Driving into the box, the 5ft 5in winger’s pursuit of glory got the better of him as he opted to shoot when he had better options to extend Wolves’ lead.

The back and forth nature of the game was epitomised in the late stages. A loose pass from centre back Cisse played in Diogo Jota. Face to face with the keeper, the Portuguese winger made a hash of it, much to Nuno’s disgust. Immediately Olympiakos threatened at the other end. After a sequence of passing, it arrived at the feet of Guilherme who’s fierce effort shaved the crossbar.

A Great Match-Up and a Great Night for Wolves

Although Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolverhampton Wanderers were ultimately the classier side, it was immediately clear that Olympiakos had the capacity threaten. Their quick passing did create opportunities for Wolves to intercept and counter, however, it also created opportunities of their own when successful.

Despite coming from a relatively unfancied league, the Athenians peppered the opposition goal with efforts from crosses, quick passing moves and players running from deep.

All this to say that Thursday night marks a fantastic victory for Wolves. Despite their well-matched opposition, they still looked the slightly better side with more potency up top. Daniel Podence, himself an Olympiakos player as recently as before joining Wolverhampton Wanderers, put in a dazzling performance where team-mate Traore faltered. Indeed, his efforts to win the penalty in the first half ultimately won Wolves the game.

For now, though, Wolves have much to celebrate. In their first European campaign since 1981, they have made the final eight. The minnows from the Black Country are now at play with the big boys, and they are all vying for a major European trophy and a spot in next season’s Champions League.

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