Wolverhampton Wanderers progress to the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 despite suffering 3-2 defeat in the hands of RCD Espanyol.
Wolves came into this game 4-0 ahead on aggregate after a strong showing in the first leg at Molineux.
This lead allowed boss Nuno Espirito Santo to start some of the players who haven’t featured much throughout the season, such as Daniel Podence and Morgan Gibbs-White.
Story of the game
RCD Espanyol started brightly, flying out of the gates putting Wolves under pressure as they looked for a way back into the tie.
Espanyol made this spell of pressure pay as they found a way through the Wolves defence. Jonathan Calleri was able to find space in the box and convert from six yards out after a cross from Adria Pedrosa was not dealt with.
With only 16 minutes played, there might have still been hope for Espanyol.
Wolves hit back soon after through one of their players of the season Adama Traore. The ball fell to Traore inside the box after good work from new man Daniel Podence down the right-hand side. Traore slid the ball past Andres Prieto in the Espanyol net and gave Wolves a crucial away goal just after the 20-minute mark.
The remainder of the first half was fairly even with both sides having an even share of the ball. Wolves looked sharp when going forward, with the pace of Traore and Podence, but didn't pose much of a threat since their equaliser.
Wolves started the second half brightly as Podence came close to opening his account for the Midlands side. He blazed a shot over the bar from just outside the box after taking on multiple Espanyol players.
Just before the hour mark however, Espanyol were given a penalty due to Max Kilman’s high foot catching David Lopez in the box. Calleri picked up his second of the game from the penalty spot, and once again gave Espanyol a glimmer of hope.
Podence made brilliant ground down the left-hand side after latching onto Kilman's throw. The Portuguese winger managed to pick out Matt Doherty for the equaliser. Doherty was unmarked at the back post, leaving him able to settle any nerves that may have started to creep up on some of the more pessimistic Wolves fans.
Brilliant work from Daniel Podence down the left-hand side of the pitch, after latching onto a throw in from Max Kilman, before crossing it in for Doherty who was unmarked at the far post with an open goal in front of him.
Pedro Neto had a chance to pile on the misery for the hosts as he almost completed an excellent counterattack. He rounded the on-rushing goalkeeper but from 20 yards out he couldn’t hit the target and missed the open net.
Just before the end of the match, Jonathan Calleri completed his hat-trick and put the hosts back ahead, as he found himself unmarked in the box and headed past the diving Rui Patricio.
Ultimately Espanyol's performance was not enough for them to recover the deficit from the first leg.
Although it wasn’t Wolves’ best performance, they did what they had to do and avoided a shock exit. They march on in the Europa League and now wait to see who they will face in the next round.
Wolves march on in Europe
Wolverhampton Wanderers continue their run in the Europa League as they are in the hat for the next round.
Having scored 18 goals in their eight Europa League games, Wolves fans can start to dream of a trip to Gdansk for the Final in May.
RCD Espanyol are in trouble
Although picking up the win tonight, the Catalan side remain in trouble as they still sit bottom of La Liga - five points adrift of safety.
Having been dumped out of the Europa League tonight, their only hope for success this season is surviving in the league. This feat isn't looking too likely after their defeat at the weekend to Real Valladolid.
After more than 20 years in Spain's top flight, could they be heading out of it this season?
Wolves quality in depth showing
Despite losing the game, Wolverhampton Wanderers showed their squad depth, and the quality that they have in it.
Although they have used the fewest amount of players in the entirety of the Premier League, Wolves made five changes to their team tonight and still put up a great fight.
Youngsters Ruben Vinagre, Morgan Gibbs-White and Max Kilman all played tonight and impressed. Vinagre coming back from an injury to his hamstring played 58 minutes and offered Wolves a lot going forward. The Portuguese full back was linking up with fellow countryman Daniel Podence very well.
The future is certainly looking very bright for Wolverhampton Wanderers.