Wolves are growing into Europa League – Nuno Espirito Santo
Nuno Espirito Santo believes Wolves are growing into the Europa League after taking a big step towards qualification for the knockout stages with victory against Slovan Bratislava.
Thursday’s 1-0 win kept Nuno’s team in second spot in Group K, a point behind Braga, whom they play next in Portugal, and extended their lead over third-placed Slovan to five points with two matches remaining.
It was the first time Wanderers had won three successive games in a major European competition since their 1971/72 UEFA Cup campaign when they won six in a row en route to reaching the final.
“It was a very important night for everyone. I think Molineux enjoys European football – we are delighted,” said the Wolves boss, whose side lost their opening group game at home to Braga in September.
“We have responded and we embraced the challenge, it doesn’t change. It is about preparing to compete. We have to improve and grow a lot, it is about growing during the competition.
“Each moment that we compete is a moment that we try to make new things, new solutions and new lines – it is a new process. It is growing with the competition.”
Wolves will seal a place in the last-32 if they avoid defeat against Braga later this month. Wanderers need just one more point from their remaining two games due to their superior head-to-head record against Slovan.
However, Nuno is not taking anything for granted and said: “We are always confident but we cannot expect things to happen, we have to make them happen.”
Next up for Wolves is a midlands derby against Aston Villa on Sunday and Nuno insisted that preparations would begin immediately.
“Sunday is a big game at Molineux, a big derby, and we prepare now. We are going to be ready for it,” he said.
“We play Sunday, we focus on that now. We sleep, we train, we prepare and embrace the challenge, and the next challenge is Sunday. It is a big one.”
Victory on Thursday came courtesy of Raul Jimenez’s injury-time header. Prior to the goal there was a lengthy stoppage when Kenan Bajric required medical attention after Jimenez kicked the defender in the head attempting an overhead volley.
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.
Asked if the injury and the delay affected his players, Slovan boss Jan Kozak said: “I don’t want to speculate.
“The home players also had a pause as well and they scored a goal. It could have been different for us, but I don’t want to speculate.”