Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo felt Raul Jimenez’s injury-time winner was reward for their patience as Wanderers took a big step towards qualifying for the knockout stages of the Europa League with victory against Slovan Bratislava.
It looked like Nuno’s side would be frustrated by a superb goalkeeping display by Dominik Greif, who included a Ruben Neves penalty save at the start of the second half among his heroics.
However, his resistance was finally broken by Jimenez’s towering header from Adama Traore’s cross to give Wolves a 1-0 win at Molineux.
“We had to be patient but I thought we played well and created a lot of chances,” said Nuno.
“We combined well and dominated against a good team, they are an organised team. If you allow space to them then it is difficult. Good team and good players and a good coach.
“It took time but it was a fantastic moment for the team. We were pushed on by Molineux so it was good for everyone.”
Greif made the first of a string of fine saves in the eighth minute with a brilliant reflex stop to keep out Joao Moutinho’s deflected shot from 25 yards out.
He was called upon again midway through the first half to turn behind a low Jimenez effort, before pushing away Neves’ casually-taken spot-kick in the 51st minute.
Greif continued to frustrate Wolves and he was at it again on the hour, this time palming away Matt Doherty’s close-range flick after the full-back’s clever run was picked out by Moutinho’s inch-perfect lofted pass.
Nuno, a former goalkeeper himself, had praise for the Slovan stopper but was also critical of his team’s finishing – and said that Neves would be practising his penalties after training on Friday.
“He (Greif) did a very good job but we have to improve. We had chances that we could do better with,” said Nuno.
“Some of those you have to credit the goalkeeper with but we must be better. We got into good positions many times and the action must be finished – we must work on that.
“The penalty – he kicked it so bad. You have to give credit to the goalkeeper but it was in the perfect spot to stop it – medium to high and slow. It was bad. He has to practice tomorrow – a lot.”
The win kept Wolves in second spot in Group K, a point behind Braga, who they travel to Portugal to play next, and extended their lead over third-placed Slovan to five points.
However, Nuno’s thoughts were immediately firmly on Sunday’s derby against Aston Villa rather than Europa League qualification.
“We play Sunday. We did very well and it was an important night but the next game is Sunday and it is a big game. That is the next challenge,” he said.
Prior to Wolves’ winning goal there was a lengthy stoppage after 79 minutes when Kenan Bajric required medical attention after Jimenez kicked the defender in the head attempting an overhead volley. It was totally accidental but the Mexican striker was booked following the incident.
Bajric was eventually lifted safely on to a stretcher and carried from the field. When play resumed, the fourth official indicated that there would be 12 added minutes.
Slovan boss Jan Kozak provided an update on the 24-year-old’s condition in his post-match press conference.
He said: “At the moment it looks like a bad injury, quite serious. One of the home players kicked him in the head. He is conscious but he has concussion.
“He is not going home with us tonight, he is staying here in hospital to be observed.”