The only downside to Wolves’ rapid rise became clear last week when they were punished for breaking UEFA’s financial fair play rules, an issue that only arose because they were qualified so quickly for European competition. The Sevilla manager hinted at this before this game, mischievously claiming that “after Manchester City [Wolves] are a club that spends more than anyone else ”. If Wolves had such a wealthy squad as Lopetegui suggested, there wouldn’t have been such concern about the possible effects of fatigue on the players who entered this game after making seven more appearances this season than Sevilla. . The implications of losing Jonny Otto could also have been less worrying; in the absence of the injured winger, Ruben Vinagre was awarded the biggest test of his career. Intrepid, the 21-year-old has started well.
At least the weather gave the wolves a break: with clouds covering Duisburg, the temperature was cooler than expected. Before the kick-off, Conor Coady’s rallying call could be heard loud and clear: “Let’s do what we do!” yelled the Wolves captain. Thirty-seven seconds later, Adama Traoré and Jiménez did just that, combining a familiar threat, except that the striker’s header over Traoré’s cross was close enough to the goalkeeper to allow a save.
Nuno’s tactics gave Traore the freedom to move wherever he saw fit as part of a front two. In the 11th minute, he made an impressive display of his threat, picking up the ball in his own half of the field before turning and sprinting into the opposing box, where Diego Carlos knocked him down in desperation. The defender escaped with a yellow card and his crime paid off when Yassine Bounou read Jiménez’s weak penalty and made a comfortable save. However, the penalty should have been retaken as Sevilla defender who completed the clearance, Diego Carlos, had trespassed.
Three minutes later, Rui Patrício was to intervene for the first time, repelling a shot pierced by Suso from 20 meters.
Wolves were grateful to see Youssef En-Nesyri firing a 15-yard shot after Suso opened them in the 27th minute. As Sevilla found an ominous groove – quick passes and shrewd moves – Ocampos approached the lead, curling up just after another thunderous attack. The Wolves could just close the hatches and hope for at least one more chance for Traore to barge onto the counter. None came before half-time.
There was no need to panic at the break; Sevilla had been dominant but not quite sharp, and Wolves generally tend to wait until the second half to strip their own fangs. But could they still do it in their 59th game of the season, against opponents as classy as this one? Sevilla certainly had no intention of giving in. As the thunder began to rumble overhead, Sevilla started attacking in waves again.
Romain Saïss, booked in the 48th minute, found himself in more trouble when Ocampos raced into the box on his blind side and returned the ball to Jordan, forcing Leander Dendoncker to perform a critical block. Two minutes later, Patrício had to stop En-Nesyri after the striker passed three defenders by will as much as by skill. Then the wolves were pardoned by Jules Koundé, who took the lead at close range after a cross from Suso.
Wolves hung on until two minutes after the moment when Sevilla finally took a chance, Ocampos glancing over a header from a cross from Ever Banega into the net from eight yards away.