Football Features

Jimenez continues to excel in Europe: Five things learned from Slovan Bratislava 1-2 Wolves

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 20:02, 24 October 2019

Wolves came from a goal down to inflict a 2-1 defeat on Slovan Bratislava further strengthening their Europa League ambitions.

Nuno Espírito Santo’s men have now registered back-to-back wins following an opening week defeat at the hands of Braga.

At the halfway stage they lie in second behind the aforementioned Portuguse club, whose lead is a single point, with a return game against Bratislava at home in a fortnight’s time.

Andraz Sporar had given the hosts an early lead, but the Premier League outfit regrouped at half-time in the Slovak capital and can thank Romain Saïss and Raúl Jiménez for three precious points.

Diogo Jota, who came on with 30 minutes remaining, would be sent off late on but that incident wouldn’t affect the result.

With the match done and dusted, here are five things we learned from this encounter…

1. Wolves’ Eurofighter strikes again

Raúl Jiménez was a revelation in the Premier League last season. The 28-year-old Mexican marksman bagged 13 goals across 38 appearances turning him into one of the league’s more featured strikers. He’s yet to carry rediscover that touch this time around, having so far mustered three in nine games, but it’s a different story in Europe where he can’t stop finding the net.

His latest effort, a cool as you like penalty to complete a Wolves turnaround, saw him move onto seven in nine Europa League outings. If they are to go deep into the competition then expect Jiménez to play a pivotal role.

2. Early warning

Wolves lined-up in their now familiar 3-5-2 shape, with the only difference being the personnel contained within, manager Nuno Espírito Santo would have planned for his side to ease their way into the contest and not do anything outrageous early on.

He didn’t get his wish after Ibrahim Rabiu’s stunning outside of the boot pass, in the 10th minute, cut through a nonexistent Wolves midfield and found Andraz Sporar who held off Conor Coady before unleashing a shot past the rooted Rui Patrico.

3. The kids are alright

Slovan Bratislava were recently handed a stadium ban due to racist behaviour from their fans. Despite being forced to play their game against Wolves behind closed doors, UEFA allows children under 14 to attend behind-closed-doors matches free of charge and The Hawks from Brickfield took full advantage.

More than 20,000 free tickets were distributed and those attending made sure they were loud and heard. This occasion could ultimately turn a negative situation into a positive one as in one night the Bratislava-based side won themselves a legion of future supporters.

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4. Saïss puts his hands up

Despite being at Wolves since 2016 it’s fair to say Morocon midfielder Romain Saïss is not guaranteed a regular starting berth. Across their opening nine Premier League outings this season he’s featured in seven and started in all but two, though would only complete the full 90 minutes twice. That being said, the need for rotation has seen him pick up ample playing time in Europe.

Having featured in defence last time out at Besiktas, Saïss returned to a familiar role, following a slow start he’d regain the composure needed stamped his authority in the second half. After winning possession, Saïss’ struck from afar to pull the Premier League side level. If anything this performance must reassure Espírito Santo of the calibre of depth at his disposal.

5. Allusive wins still awaits

Slovan Bratislava waited 22 years for this moment, to cross paths with an English club, that previous meeting against Chelsea in the 1997/98 Cup Winners Cup first round ended in a 2-0 defeat.

For nearly an hour they looked to be on course to win a third game against opposition from England – only successes came against Spurs (1963) and Derby (1975) – before that dream evaporated in the space of six minutes.