After winning 4-0 in Armenia, Wolverhampton fans were relaxed about their chances of advancing to the next qualifying round. Against an inferior opponent and having scored four away goals, it seemed almost impossible for Pyunik to overcome such a deficit.
Despite maintaining a level of respect for the Armenian team, Nuno Espírito Santos made nine changes to the team that faced Leicester in the Premier League, starting new signings Pedro Neto and Patrick Cutrone at the front, as well as Jesus Vallejo in the back three.
After a slow start to the game, where Pyunik tried to offer some degree of resistance, Wolves raised the speed of the game and chances started to appear. After a few good chances that went wide by Neto, Cutrone and Roman Saïss, both teams went into half-time tied at zero.
The second half was different, as Pyunik's players started to feel the effects of defending for long periods of time. And taking advantage of that, Wolves upped the speed of the game once again and scored three goals in fifteen minutes, sealing the game and the tie. At the 54th minute it was the youngster Pedro Neto who scored his first goal for the club, tapping in the ball after a low pass from Cutrone. Four minutes after, it was Morgan Gibbs-White who scored after a great piece of team play, making it 2-0. And as if that weren't enough, at the 64th minute it was Ruben Vinagre who tapped it in after a great run on the right side by Adama Traore.
So 3-0 up on the night and 7-0 on aggregate, the tie was finished but the score wasn't. Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota came in and together created the goal of the night, with the Mexican striker tipping the ball over the defenders to Jota who scored an acrobatic bicycle kick right on the penalty spot, making it 4-0 on the night and closing the game in the best way it could.
An easy tie for Wolverhampton Wanderers who are now just one step away from the Europa League group phase and will face Torino in the last qualifying round, a difficult opponent who will certainly put up quite a fight.
If there is one thing that has been on point since Wolves' first pre-season game has been their defence. The 3-5-2 implemented by Nuno Espírito Santo, who transforms into a 5-3-2 on the defensive side, has been incredibly sturdy against every opponent and shows great promise for the rest of the season.
Although quite risky, this Wolverhampton team appears to have the pieces to make it work, with tireless backs on each side, capable of providing on the offensive end, but also on defence, and a mature but young and physical back three.
Although Wolves have face weaker opposition this far into the competition, their players have shown no fear or lack of quality. Against Crusaders and Pyunik, the team has rotated in order to keep the fatigue levels low and everyone has been up for the task.
Despite knowing that now that rotation will most likely shrink to only a few players it must be reassuring, not only to Nuno but also for the fans, to know that if they are ever in need, any of their players will be able to step up and deliver.
Man of the match
The 21-year-old Italian striker was unstoppable last night. Two assists and a number of great opportunities, he combined speed and vision to crack open the Armenian defence.
Although Premier League defences aren't as "soft" as Pyunik's was, it will be very interesting seeing how Cutrone adapts and tries to put into play the ability they made Wolves sign him from AC Milan. Even though Jimenez and Jota are, and probably will be, the main options for the attack, we might see the Italian using this Europa League as the key to the starting eleven.