David Wilson reports from Seaview
English Premier League side Wolves comfortably saw past the challenge of Crusaders in the second Qualifying Round of the Europa League thanks to a four-one win.
A rousing opening from the hosts resulted in an excellent cross delivered from the right by Jordan Forsythe allowed target man Jordan Owens to rise above Ryan Bennett.
His header across goal went beyond the clutches of Rui Patricio, before being expertly headed off the line by Conor Coady of Wolves after only two minutes gone.
A scrappy few minutes ensued, which suited the home side as crosses, long passes and long throws began to cause problems in the Wolves defence.
After almost a quarter of an hour Jordan Forsythe whipped in another delicious ball to the back stick to find the smallest man on the pitch Paul Heatley.
Heatley rose highest to meet the cross and in doing so put Bennett under enough pressure which resulted in the centre-half directing the ball into the corner of his own net.
However, it only took one minute for the visitors to draw level as Seaview was stunned after a vociferous start.
Diego Jota received a pass down the left, his low cross was brilliantly controlled by Raul Jimenez’ left foot and in one swivel rifled the ball with his right, low past Sean O’Neill.
After a hectic couple of minutes, Wolves seemed to find their rhythm. Jimenez and Jota began to link up well. Just past the half hour mark a beautiful flowing move between Jota, Jimenez, Jonny Otto and Leander Dendoncker resulted in Mexican hitman flashing wide.
The pressure began to tell as Adama Traore won a corner down the right after some neat footwork. The resulting corner, an out-swinger from Moutinho was met by the head of Bennett who was left unmarked and he made no mistake heading high into the net.
The killer third goal came right on the fourty-fifth minute as Crusaders were undone with some magnificent football.
Moutinho dinked a lovely pass to Jota who demonstrated tight control and clever footwork before working a one-two with Jimenez. Crues defender Billy Burns managed to get a toe in but the resulting tackle was seized upon by Jimenez.
The striker, who took one touch across the defender, wonderfully curled the ball home beyond O’Neill, as there was nothing the hosts could do about it.
The second period started more positively than the first for the Wanderers, with manager Nuno Espirito Santos barking orders encouraging his players to play at a higher tempo.
Crues were well organised and with Jimenez going off with an injury being replaced by wonderkid Morgan Gibbs-White, Wolves lacked a cutting edge.
Ten minutes into the half the first major flashpoint occurred with Jota reacting badly from a tackle by Forsythe. Handbags ensued with Jota and Burns both going into the book for a verbal altercation.
The resulting free kick was struck well by Moutinho from the left about 27 yards from goal as O’Neill got down well and parried before Gibbs-White’s effort was blocked by some last ditch defending.
The game now began to resemble a pre-season friendly as Wolves stroked the ball well in front of well drilled Stephen Baxter side.
With just twelve minutes remaining the Crues resolve was broken. A succession of wolves passes resulted in a Crossfield diagonal from Moutinho.
Forsythe again was on the cover, but he could only manage to head into his own net into the same corner Bennett previously did before him for the opening goal.
The closing minutes were littered with substitutions and as the game came to its conclusion the vociferous away support continued to enjoy their short European trip.
Substitutions Roman Saiss and Ruben Vinagre went close, however the 4-1 result was a fair reflection on the efforts of both sides tonight.
However, this battling Crusaders side acquitted themselves well and the home side can be truly proud of their efforts.
Crusaders: Sean O’Neill; Philip Lowry, Ross Clarke (Declan Caddell 77), Billy Burns, Chris Hegarty; Sean Ward, Jordan Owens (David Cushley 79), Paul Heatley, Jarlath O’Rourke; Rory Hale (Gary Thompson 83), Jordan Forsythe.
Subs not used: Gerard Doherty, Howard Beverland, Colin Coates, Michael Ruddy.
Booked: Billy Burns (55), Declan Caddell (90+1).
Wolves: Rui Patricio; Ryan Bennett, Conor Coady (C), Wily Boly; Adama Traore, Leander Dendoncker, Rúben Neves (Roman Saiss 67), João Moutinho, Jonny Otto; Diogo Jota (Ruben Vinagre 67), Raul Jimenez (Morgan Gibbs-White 55).
Subs not used: John Ruddy, Dion Dannie Leonard Sanderson, Taylor Perry, Max Kilman.
Booked: Diogo Jota (55).
Attendance: 3500 (Estimate).
Referee: Nejc Kajtazovic.
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: João Moutinho (Wolves).