Wolves’ year-long European adventure came to an end on Tuesday night as they were knocked out by Sevilla after a heart-breaking late header from Lucas Ocampos. In truth, the goal had been coming and Sevilla were worthy winners on the night, proving a bridge too far for Nuno’s men who have done themselves and the club proud in the Europa League this season. However, they will be reminiscing Raul Jimenez’s early penalty miss which could have made proceedings so different.
Wolves v Sevilla Reaction
Wolves (3-4-3): Patricio, Boly, Coady, Saiss, Doherty, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Vinagre, Traore, Jimenez (Subs Used: Jota, Neto)
Sevilla (4-3-3): Bono, Navas, Kounde, Carlos, Reguilon, Fernando, Jordan, Benega, Ocampos, Suso, En-Nesyri (Subs Used: De Jong, Vazquez)
Many had predicted that Nuno would revert to the 3-5-2 formation prior to the game to try and control the midfield and he did just that with Leander Dendoncker replacing the suspended Daniel Podence. As expected, Ruben Vinagre came in to replace the injured Jonny at left wing-back. However, there was a slight surprise up front where Adama Traore partnered Raul Jimenez, leaving the out of form Diogo Jota on the bench. Sevilla started with their usual 4-3-3 system and boasted a threatening attack with Ocampos, Suso and En-Nesyri the front three.
Wolves made a very impressive start to the game in control of the ball and on the front foot. Just minutes into the game Leander Dendoncker fired over from a Joao Moutinho free-kick out wide, had he made a better connection Wolves would have been ahead. But Wolves should have been ahead five minutes later as Raul Jimenez failed to convert his penalty and VAR failed to spot the encroachment which should have led to a re-take. Adama Traore showed exactly why Nuno had selected him to start up front as he received the ball deep inside the Wolves half and took on four Sevilla players, beating them all for pace and finding himself in on goal before he was fouled for the penalty.
This was clearly part of the game plan from Nuno, and it looked to be working a treat in the opening stages of the game. However, Julen Lopetegui spotted this and played former Manchester City midfielder Fernando in a deeper position, almost making a back three to combat Traore’s threat and try and crowd him out when he receives the ball in attacking areas. This nullified Wolves attacking threat which was almost non-existent for the remainder of the match.
Sevilla dominated the rest of the first half but didn’t have many clear-cut chances as the Wolves defence stood form. Suso tried his luck from range on two occasions but both efforts were easily dealt with by Rui Patricio while Lucas Ocampos bent one round the post.
The Spaniards were very dangerous down the right-hand side and looked to target the largely inexperienced Ruben Vinagre. Jesus Navas and Suso proved to be a constant threat but credit to Vinagre who did well, but Wolves definitely missed the more assuring presence of Jonny. In general, Coady and the back three did well and blocked many crosses, which a clear strength of the Spanish side with almost every cross into the box a threatening one.
Late on in the second half, it became apparent something had to change for Wolves as Diogo Jota replaced Joao Moutinho. This came as somewhat a surprise as although Moutinho had begun to tire and was very rarely on the ball, he is better placed than anyone in the Wolves side to win a big European game and his presence on the pitch was certainly missed after his substitution. Diogo Jota was ineffective but, in all fairness, he was outnumbered whenever the ball came towards him as Wolves sat deep and struggled to get out of their own half. The warning signs from Sevilla continued to come as Suso crossed for Kounde who headed over from close range.
Then as the game edged towards the 90-minute mark, Wolves were not switched on as a corner was taken short to Benega. He had far too much time on the ball crossed for Ocampos to head home. It was a huge blow to Wolves to concede so late on in the game and they offered very little in the closing stages with no game-changing options to come off the bench as Sevilla saw the game out comfortably.
Wolves v Sevilla Key Moments
Penalty Incident/Jimenez Miss
After a bright start to the game, Wolves found themselves with a glorious chance to take the lead in the tie. Adama Traore picked the ball up deep in his own half, ran past several players before being hacked down by Kounde. A very familiar trait from the pacey winger this season. Usually reliable from the spot, Raul Jimenez saw his penalty saved by Bono and Moutinho fired over from close range from the rebound. It was an extremely poor penalty as Jimenez aimed to send the ball into the net away from the keeper once he had moved as he so often does, but Bono had done his homework and stood his ground to save. Despite this, Wolves have a very valid argument that the penalty should have been re-taken. Diego Carlos was clearly inside the penalty area before Jimenez shot, and as he was the player to head the ball away after the save. The VAR should have enforced a re-take. A massive moment in the game which could have changed its entire complexion.
As the game edged closer to extra time Wolves looked leggier and leggier as Sevilla pilled the pressure on. Wolves were not alert as Sevilla took a quick corner and the ball was played to Benega outside the box, with Vinagre caught in two minds as he had Benega on the ball and an overlapping player to mark. This meant that Benega had far too much time to put the cross in, the cross which found the unmarked Lucas Ocampos to head home brilliantly, leaving Rui Patricio with no chance. It was extremely poor defending from Wolves who will be furious that they conceded such an avoidable goal after 87 minutes of hard work. You quite simply cannot make these mistakes at this stage of a European competition.
Wolves v Sevilla Man of the Match
With the exception of the goal, the Wolves defence were stern and resolute throughout the game. Willy Boly was definitely the pick of the bunch as he looked back to his best following an early scare as he went down injured. Boly won several headers in the box in dangerous situations, as well as closing down the space on the right-hand side when the Spanish outfit managed to work their way in behind Matt Doherty. It was an excellent display from the defender who Wolves must keep this summer if they are to build on the success of this season.
Things to Improve
It would be stating the obvious to say that Wolves could not have attacked Sevilla from the first whistle to the last as this would only have ended up with one result given the evident counter-attacking ability that Julen Lopetegui’s side possess. However, after an impressive first ten minutes going forward, Wolves resorted to sitting deep and soaking up pressure for the remainder of the match offering almost nothing going forward. It is understandable that the penalty miss will have knocked the momentum that Wolves had built up early on, but they are going to have to adapt the way in which they play to be on the front foot and show some attacking intent if they are to progress to the next level. The 14 draws in the Premier League this season provides all the evidence Nuno needs to know this is an area Wolves must improve.
Ocampos’ winner is the third late goal Wolves have conceded in recent weeks have had points snatched away in games against Sheffield United and Burnley in the Premier League. This is certainly a habit that Nuno will want to eradicate as soon as possible. This concerning trend has also come somewhat as a surprise as Wolves are not known to lose concentration in the dying minutes under Nuno. In addition to switching off late on, concentration was an issue throughout the game as many simple passes went astray and the easy option was missed. These are simple mistakes which meant the pressure on the Wolves backline increased as the game went on as Sevilla won the ball back with ease. The mental and physical break coming up will do the Wolves squad the world of good and hopefully remove such errors next season.
383 days since their first game in the competition, after a 59 game-long season that involved ten different countries, Wolves finally came unstuck. It was a disappointing and frustrating night, but one which every Wolves fan will look back on with immense pride. A phenomenal effort to get to the Quarter Finals of a European competition in just three seasons under Nuno. Every single one of the players has given their all throughout the season and given fans memories to last a lifetime. But Fosun will not settle for this, Nuno will not settle for this. While fans look back and reflect on the past twelve months the planning will already be underway for next season and if they can bring in some quality first-team additions, Wolves will be challenging for the top six once again next season.
Ciaran Barker is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here.