Wolves survived an early scare to beat Crusaders on an entertaining evening of Europa League qualifying.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side made it through their second round qualifier with a 4-1 win on the night but Raul Jimenez suffered an injury after scoring twice.
Scottish duo Aberdeen and Rangers also progressed, but Shamrock Rovers suffered heartbreak with a narrow defeat in Cyprus.
Here are five things we learned from Thursday’s Europa League qualifying action.
1. Raul Jimenez too good for Crusaders but injury a concern
Northern Irish side Crusaders threatened an upset when they took the lead against Wolves through a Ryan Bennett own goal, but their excitement was premature. Raul Jimenez quickly equalised to put the visitors back in control after their 2-0 first leg victory back in the Midlands.
Jimenez’s opener, a superb turn and powerful shot, was matched in quality by his second of the game just before half-time, another forceful effort that gave the goalkeeper no chance. Bennett had already put Wolves ahead on the night, making up for his own goal, before Jimenez sealed the victory by half-time.
Unfortunately, the Mexican took a knock just five minutes into the second half and was forced off. Nuno Espirito Santo must regret leaving his star striker on, although he was likely told to take it easy with the Premier League curtain-raiser just around the corner. Wolves will hope it isn’t a major problem.
2. Last season’s semi-finalists Frankfurt find a way
Having lost Luka Jovic to Real Madrid and Sebastian Haller to West Ham United, Eintracht Frankfurt are unlikely to replicate last season’s Europa League campaign. The Germans reached the semi-finals only to go out on penalties against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
They have, at least, gotten through the second round of qualifying with a 4-2 aggregate victory over Flora Tallin. Portuguese striker Goncalo Paciencia, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, scored both goals in the second leg and will be aiming to take that form in the Bundesliga campaign.
Indeed, Frankfurt will need the likes of Paciencia to fill the boots of Jovic and Haller. Matching last term’s seventh-place finish – which would have been bettered if not for a late collapse – is probably the best they can hope for in the German top-flight this time around.
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
3. Kazakhstan side have three men sent off… including an unused sub
It was a fiery night in Kazakhstan as Kairat Almaty were eliminated by Israeli side Hapoel Be’er Sheva. The visitors ran out 3-1 winners on aggregate after a 1-1 second leg draw, but frustration got the better of Almaty late on.
The hosts had three men sent off, receiving two red cards in the dying embers of the contest. One of the dismissed players wasn’t even on the pitch; substitute goalkeeper Vladimir Plotnikov was given his marching order for getting overly involved in the on-field drama.
Nigel Hasselbaink, the nephew of Jimmy Floyd who came through the Ajax academy and spent time in Scotland, was in the Be’er Sheva line-up. He was one of two visiting players to receive a yellow card, of which there were 11 shown in total.
4. A comfortable night for Scotland
Scotland’s Europa League contingent, Aberdeen and Rangers, enjoyed two very different but equally positive results. Steven Gerrard’s Rangers held Progres Niederkorn of Luxembourg to a goalless draw to seal a 2-0 aggregate victory, while Aberdeen thrashed Georgia’s Chikhura Sach 5-0 at Pitodrie.
The result was something of a relief for Aberdeen, who were unconvincing in their first-leg draw. Thankfully, Derek McInnes’ side came alive in the reverse fixture and put five goals past their opponents, including a Sam Cosgrove hat-trick.
Meanwhile, Rangers gave some valuable minutes to Alfredo Morelos from the bench. The striker reportedly turned down a huge contract offer from China this week, although Gerrard claims the club is yet to receive any bids. Morelos would certainly be a useful player to have around in Europe this term.
5. Heartbreak for Shamrock Rovers
Qualification was always going to be difficult for Shamrock Rovers after the underdogs from the Republic of Ireland failed to beat Apollon Limassol at home in the first leg. Limassol’s away goal made things even tougher, and the Cypriots took the aggregate score up to 3-0 midway through the second half here.
But a red card for the hosts in the 67th minute gave Shamrock hope. The visitors struck an away goal of their own two minutes later and took the game to extra time. However, Shamrock’s Lee Grace was then dismissed and Limassol grabbed the winner with eight minutes to go.