Express & Star

The Tim Spiers debrief – Torino 2 Wolves 3

Wolves produced a superb performance to beat Torino 3-2 in the Europa League play-off first leg.


It continued their 100 per cent record in a European adventure that shows no signs of slowing down.

"I was there"

Away days at Bristol City (December 2017), Middlesbrough (March 2018), Cardiff (April 2018), Bolton (April 2018), Spurs (December 2018), home games against Villa (October 2017), Blues (April 2018), Chelsea (December 2018), Manchester United (March *and* April 2019)...the list of "I was there" matches under Nuno Espirito Santo is already a lengthy one.

To those 10, yes 10, unforgettable occasions, all complete with spine-tingling moments and memories to last a lifetime, you can add Torino (August 2019).

In a little over two years Nuno has engineered a host of goosebump-inducing victories and triumphs. Frankly, you lot have been spoiled rotten.

These are the days of Wolves' lives and judging on the past 24 months you can expect a few more to come during 2019/20.

The 1,600 who paid good money to travel to Italy, took time off work, flew via Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Milan, had trouble getting shuttle buses to the stadium, queued patiently in a tight holding pen to squeeze through one turnstile and stood locked in for at least 20 minutes after the full-time whistle had gone and then dragged themselves back to England this morning, mostly on very little sleep and/or with raging hangovers, well, it was all worth it, wasn't it?

They sang and sang and then sang some more in the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino. The home fans generated a hostile and noisy atmosphere from half an hour before kick-off, but the Wolves barmy army made themselves heard, only just at first in the din of Turin, then in the closing stages all you could hear was "Nuno had a dream" or the extremely catchy new ditty which states that Patrick Cutrone loves the pizza and loves the pasta.

It was a wonderful night in balmy Turin – and just the latest 'pinch me' moment for those fans, who used to be known as 'long-suffering'. Not anymore.


Nuno didn't say much in his pre-match press conference in Italy, but what he did say was that this would be an entertaining game – which is exactly what transpired.

The two teams were pretty evenly matched, with Wolves' superior quality in the final third proving to be the difference.

Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez may have drawn a blank in the opening two Premier League games but there's no problem in Europe for Wolves' fearsome strike duo, who have scored eight goals between them in five qualifying matches (five for Jimenez, three for Jota).

Jota didn't have the best night – plenty that he tried didn't come off – but took his goal well, while Jimenez, having two minutes earlier hesitated when on his right foot, allowing a defender to make a block when through on goal, quickly learned his lesson when finishing off a superb run into the box with a cool, calm and composed finish in what was the evening's standout moment.

In their five qualifying games Wolves have scored an impressive 17 goals. They look clinical, confident, motivated, assured and ready to make a big impact on the European stage.

Terrific Traore

Once again Adama Traore made a big impact at wing-back, scorching up and down that right flank and taking players on whenever he pleased.

The Spaniard impressed fleetingly last season with the obvious accusation to be levelled being that he lacked a football brain.

That doesn't look to be the case anymore. Traore is managing his bursts of pace, managing his moments of velocity and becoming a team player who will defend as well as attack.

Last season, when presented with four team-mates in the box waiting for a cross, he'd have driven it in at pace or got to the byline and aimlessly swung the ball across. Last night he picked his moment and picked his pass with perfection to tee up Jota for a simple finish.

He's certainly not the finished article at wing-back, as proved when he tried to run the ball out from near his own box and gave the ball away, leading to Torino pulling a goal back (and leading to Traore's departure just a minute or two later). But the signs are oh-so promising that the £18m man is about to start producing the goods on a consistent basis.

One thing is for sure – he's in the best moment of his Wolves career to date.

Salty Vinagre

Aside from Traore, the unflappable Conor Coady and Willy Boly and the wily old stager Joao Moutinho were the star turns for Nuno's team.

However, despite such a bright and stirring away performance in the heat of the Turin battle, the tie is far from over.

That's because they contrived to concede two sloppy goals and unfortunately for Ruben Vinagre the finger could be pointed at him for both.

The Portuguese wing-back lost his man for the first goal, allowing De Silvestri a free header, before inexplicably kicking Andrea Belotti for an 89th-minute penalty that felt so unnecessary.

The mistakes suggest Vinagre, while a huge talent going forward, isn't quite ready to seriously challenge Jonny Castro Otto for that left wing-back spot.

However, it should be remembered at all times that Vinagre – a young player with enormous potential – is still learning his trade. He's yet to make 30 starts in his senior career and his is undoubtedly a talent worth pursuing.

He'll be feeling lousy today but it's all a learning curve and he'll be better off for last night's experience in the long run.

Not over

The old cliches of "it's only half-time" and "this is far from over" were rolled out by Nuno and Coady post-match but they were absolutely spot on.

Torino may have been fallable defensively but Walter Mazzarri's side possess enough quality in attack to trouble Wolves at Molineux.

The fiery Belotti and Simone Zaza carried a fairly constant threat all evening and of course Torino hit the bar with the score at 0-0. It could have been a very different evening indeed and the last thing Wolves should do is presume they've got one foot in the group stage.

That will be Nuno's primary challenge come next Thursday.