Football Features

Braga 3-3 Wolves: Five things learned as Nuno’s men march into the Europa League round of 32

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 19:57, 28 November 2019

Wolves have booked their place in the Europa League round of 32 following a 3-3 draw at Braga.

Nuno Espírito Santo’s men fell behind early, before striking thrice in 20 minutes, though they would concede a further two goals in the final half hour.

It’s a landmark achievement for a club playing in their first Europa League season and will now fancy their chances of going deeper into the competition.

As the dust settles, here are five things we learned from this pulsating encounter.

1. Writing his own history

Raúl Jiménez has been nothing short of incredible since becoming a Wolves player. Considered surplus to requirements at Benfica, there loss has most certainly been The Wanderers’ gain. His first campaign saw him bag 17 goals across 44 matches in all competitions, with all but four of those coming in the Premier League. He’s started tentatively in England’s top division this season but recent outings show the Mexican marksman is turning a corner.

However, it’s a different story in Europe. Including their Europa League qualifying program, Jiménez went into tonight’s game having registered eight goals across 10 games. Having notched in the club’s previous two games, few would have bet against him from making it three on the bounce.

And those who backed him were proven correct. Just minutes after going behind, Jiménez popped up at the back post to nod Jonny’s cross, meaning he matches the feat of Derek Dougan to become only the second Wolves player to score in three consecutive games in major European competition (excluding qualifiers).

Dougan, during their 1971/72 campaign, would strike in four successive matches. If Jimenez features at home against Beşiktaş on December 12, expect that record to be equalled.

2. Brothers in arms

Going into tonight’s showdown at The Quarry, the visitors from England had only conceded twice in this season’s Europa League group phase. Last time out at Slovan Bratislava, they’d find themselves going behind in the 11th minute to an Andra Sporar strike. Espírito Santo’s side would come alive in five second-half minutes to turn the game around: Romain Saïss and that man Jiménez with the goals.

Before seeing Sporar wheel away in celebration, it was Braga forward Ricardo Horta who found the net. He’d start this evening on the left flank of Ricardo Sá Pinto’s team, but wouldn’t find himself back on the scoresheet. Instead that honour went to his youngest brother Andre, whose strike would take a wicked deflection off Ruben Neves, who interestingly is best friends with Ricardo.

3. Mixed night for the pioneering Patrício

Eyebrows were raised when Rui Patrício – who played a pivotal role in Portugal becoming European champions in 2016 – joined Wolves ahead of their Premier League return last summer. But considering how influential super-agent Jorge Mendes, who advises the goalkeeper, is at the club it really shouldn’t have surprised anyone. That said, it’s not as if his talent is being wasted. Instead Patrício is among the league’s better performing ‘keepers and tonight illustrated his longevity at the highest level.

Prior to joining England’s top division, the 31-year-old solely represented boyhood club Sporting CP, where he was first exposed to European football. And this evening saw him hit the half-century mark in terms of Europa League matches (group stage to final) played. He’s only the tenth player to reach this milestone – an exclusive group that already includes Kevin Gameiro and Jeremain Lens – but is the first goalkeeper.

On this occasion, Patrício would find himself picking the ball out of his net after six minutes on the clock. Horta’s shot from outside the penalty area deflected off Neves en route, flying past the Wolves shot-stopper. He’d go on to concede two more, Paulinho and Fransérgio with the goals, meaning Braga stretched their unbeaten streak in the Europa League to 12 matches.

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4. Blink and you missed it

81 seconds. That was the gap between Matt Doherty putting Wolves in front and Adama Traore doubling their lead. In fairness, it was no more than Espírito Santo’s men deserved. As touched upon above, they’re looking a different team in Europe, even though their Premier League form is starting to pick up. Doherty’s goal to begin was a thing of beauty.

Jiménez, often the beneficiary of a delicious pass/cross, turned provider this time and his sumptuous lofted ball was headed in by the Irishman, whose well-timed run would have been lauded by the finest watchmaker. Braga, who started the game brightly, were not given any time to regroup and before they knew it the ever-evolving Traore slammed home the fourth goal of this game, again teed up by Jiménez.

5. A special word on Wolves’ take-on king

“We’re building a player,” was how Espírito Santo recently described Traoré’s contribution to Wolves.

Since joining, following an indifferent spell at Middlesbrough, the former Barcelona academy graduate has equally blown hot and cold at Molineux, but signs of a turnaround in becoming more consistently dangerous have been there for all to see this season.

Oft-criticised for lacking an end product, Traoré has either scored or assisted in his last three outings, but there’s one area of the Spaniard’s game which continues to be devastating and that’s his dribbling.

To call him a speedster is an understatement. He attempted no fewer than 14 take-ons this evening, completing 10, which took his total output of successful take-ons to 23. This is more than any other player in this season’s competition.