Sean O’Neill’s late mistake allowed Ruben Vinagre to add to Diogo Jota’s first-half goal as Wolves marked their return to European football by beating Crusaders 2-0 in the first leg of their Europa League second-round qualifier.
Jota struck late in the first half to put the Premier League side in front but they struggled to break the Northern Irish side down at Molineux on Thursday.
After successfully marshalling his defence all game, goalkeeper O’Neill dropped a late cross and allowed substitute Vinagre to convert what is likely to be a decisive second goal in the 93rd minute.
Jota dragged a shot wide as Wolves, back in Europe after 39 years, dominated the early exchanges with O’Neill then parrying a long-range Leander Dendoncker strike.
Wolves finally broke through in the 37th minute, patient build-up play freeing Adama Traore on the right wing, with his cross brilliantly powered in first time by Jota.
— Wolves (@Wolves) July 25, 2019
Morgan Gibbs-White rifled narrowly over as Wolves sought to extend their lead but struggled to find space against Stephen Baxter’s deep-lying defence after the interval.
Raul Jimenez headed straight at O’Neill in the 75th minute and the goalkeeper was fortunate his initial fumble was not costly, the Crusaders captain claiming the loose ball.
O’Neill’s next error would be punished, though, the goalkeeper misjudging a cross from Joao Moutinho to leave Vinagre the most straightforward finish into an open goal.
Crusaders have now lost 10 of their 12 away qualification matches for the UEFA Cup/Europa League and their hopes of qualifying for the next round look slim.
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