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Wolves beat Torino to reach Europa League group stage


Raul Jimenez

Raul Jimenez has scored six goals in as many Europa League qualifiers this season

Wolves booked their place in the Europa League group stage after beating Torino in front of a jubilant Molineux.

The Black Country side are in the main stage of a European competition for the first time since 1980 after coming through three rounds of qualifiers.

Raul Jimenez opened the scoring as he hooked home Adama Traore’s cross.

Andrea Belotti gave Torino brief hope with a header to make it 4-3 on aggregate, but seconds later Leander Dendoncker put the game out of reach.

That goal meant Torino – who lost last week’s home leg 3-2 – needed to score twice to force extra time, and, despite some late chances, a comeback never seemed likely.

Wolves will discover their group opponents during Friday’s draw at 12:00 BST in Monaco. Manchester United, Arsenal, Celtic and Rangers are also in the draw. No sides from the same country can be in one group, but an English team and Scottish team can be drawn together.

United, the 2017 winners, and last season’s beaten finalists Arsenal will be among the top seeds. Celtic are in pot two, Wolves are in the third and Rangers are among the bottom seeds.

Mission accomplished for Wolves

Wolves’ European run may end up causing problems for their 21-man first-team squad – this was their ninth game in 36 days – but that is a problem boss Nuno Espirito Santo wants.

The Portuguese – who has turned the club around since his 2017 appointment when they were in the Championship – named a strong team, making only four changes from Sunday’s draw with Burnley.

They started the game on the back foot, with Torino dominating possession and Wolves playing a counter-attacking game.

But wing-back Traore was lively down the right and forced a save from Salvatore Sirigu after a sensational surging run – before setting up Jimenez for the opener. The Mexican has scored six goals in as many qualifiers this season.

Torino needed three goals at that stage and for about 60 seconds they seemed back in the tie when Italy international Belotti headed in Daniele Baselli’s free-kick.

But before television replays of that goal were even shown, Wolves had restored their two-goal aggregate advantage when Diogo Jota’s shot was saved and Dendoncker’s first-time shot from 16 yards went in via the post.

Torino, who finished seventh in Serie A last season, had a go with Simone Zaza and Soualiho Meite going close. But the Italian side went the way of Northern Ireland’s Crusaders and Armenian side Pyunik, Wolves’ victims in the previous two rounds.

‘This is massive for us’

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo:“Work started two years ago and this is the next step. This is massive for us.

“It has been tough so far. The way the fans push us, they are the 12th man.

“Tomorrow, after training, we will watch the draw. I don’t want to look too far ahead. We want to improve during the competition and use the games as a tool to improve the team.”

What’s next?

Wolves visit Everton on Sunday in the Premier League (14:00 BST). The West Midlands side are yet to play a Saturday league game this season because of the Europa League.

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