Wolverhampton Wanderers 4-0 Espanyol: Diogo Jota scores a hat-trick in big Wolves win

Diogo Jota scored a hat-trick for the second consecutive Europa League game as Wolves took total control of their Europa League last-32 tie by thrashing Espanyol at Molineux.

Jota opened the scoring in the first half when he poked in from close range.

Ruben Neves made it 2-0 in the second period with a stunning long-range volley.

Jota drove in a third after running onto Matt Doherty’s pass before completing his hat-trick with a strike from the edge of the box. He was replaced soon after to a standing ovation from the home crowd.

Wolves will look to complete the job when they travel to Barcelona for the return leg next Thursday.

Jota plays starring role – again

Given Wolves’ recent inability to start games strongly, this proved an unusually stress-free match for them.

In fact, Jota’s opening goal after 15 minutes – his effort deflecting in off Victor Sanchez following a corner – was something of a collector’s item as it was the first time Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have scored first in a match since the 4-0 defeat of Besiktas on 12 December, 13 games ago.

The other similarity with that game and this was Jota’s devastating finishing, scoring hat-tricks on both occasions.

Only once did they look like surrendering the initiative, in rather comical fashion as striker Raul Jimenez miscued what was intended to be a hefty punt downfield.

Instead, the Mexican sent the ball looping from quite a height into his own six-yard box. Keeper Rui Patricio completely messed up two attempts to clear and was fortunate to have recovered his position by the time Facundo Ferrerya scuffed his shot and was able to keep it out.

It was a rare moment of panic on a memorable night for Wolves and the result means they have scored four goals without reply in Europe four times this season.

Wolves could win it

Wolves’ European heritage is rich, if not particularly extensive – or recent.

This is Wolves’ eighth European campaign but their first since 1980-81. It was the first time they had still been involved after Christmas since 1972, when they were beaten in the Uefa Cup final by Tottenham.

Having started in the second qualifying round against Northern Ireland side Crusaders on 25 July, they have now played 13 fixtures and while the final in Gdansk on 27 May is a further seven matches away, Nuno’s well-drilled outfit are not without hope of lifting the trophy, especially if the increasingly influential Adama Traore stays fit.

At Aston Villa and Middlesbrough, Traore appeared to have little going for him other than staggering pace.

Over the past 12 months, the Spaniard has developed his game awareness to a significantly higher degree.

Every time he took possession, a buzz of anticipation went round the stadium. He won the corner which led to Jota’s opener and it was his cross which helped tee up Neves for his stunning volley.

And while Jota will take the headlines for the quantity of his goals, it was the quality of Neves’s strike – chesting the ball down 20 yards out and smashing it into the corner – which provided the real highlight of the night.

The only sour moment came just before half-time when a routine push and shove between Jota and Ander Iturraspe escalated after the former Spain midfielder appeared to make a forward movement towards the Wolves man as he stuck his forehead into him.

German referee Tobias Stieler quickly whisked out a yellow card to the incredulity of the home supporters, who felt it was a certain red.

In the end, it mattered little and Wolves have now won 10 out of their past 11 home games in European competition, a run that stretches back to 1973.

They may have a few more games at Molineux to play yet.

What’s next?

Wolves’ next game is at home to the Premier League’s bottom club, Norwich, on Sunday, 23 February (14:00 GMT).

Line-ups

Wolves

Substitutes

Espanyol

Substitutes

Match Stats

Live Text

Match ends, Wolverhampton Wanderers 4, Espanyol 0.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Wolverhampton Wanderers 4, Espanyol 0.

Matías Vargas (Espanyol) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers).

Attempt saved. Jonathan Calleri (Espanyol) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Facundo Ferreyra.

Foul by Jonathan Calleri (Espanyol).

Rúben Neves (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Corner, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Conceded by Sergi Darder.

Foul by Sergi Darder (Espanyol).

Daniel Podence (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Substitution

Substitution, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Daniel Podence replaces Diogo Jota.

Goal!

Goal! Wolverhampton Wanderers 4, Espanyol 0. Diogo Jota (Wolverhampton Wanderers) right footed shot from outside the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by João Moutinho.

Corner, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Conceded by Naldo.

Attempt blocked. João Moutinho (Wolverhampton Wanderers) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

Booking

Víctor Sánchez (Espanyol) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Víctor Sánchez (Espanyol).

Diogo Jota (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Pedro Neto (Wolverhampton Wanderers) hits the right post with a left footed shot from outside the box.

Substitution

Substitution, Espanyol. Sergi Darder replaces Víctor Gómez.

Hand ball by Wu Lei (Espanyol).

Substitution

Substitution, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Pedro Neto replaces Raúl Jiménez.

Corner, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Conceded by Fernando Calero.

Attempt saved. Wu Lei (Espanyol) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by David López.

Attempt saved. David López (Espanyol) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Matías Vargas with a headed pass.

Goal!

Goal! Wolverhampton Wanderers 3, Espanyol 0. Diogo Jota (Wolverhampton Wanderers) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the top right corner. Assisted by Matt Doherty with a through ball.

Booking

Víctor Gómez (Espanyol) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Víctor Gómez (Espanyol).

Diogo Jota (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Hand ball by Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers).

Substitution

Substitution, Espanyol. Jonathan Calleri replaces Óscar Melendo.

Substitution

Substitution, Espanyol. David López replaces Ander Iturraspe.

Substitution

Substitution, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Leander Dendoncker replaces Adama Traoré.

Hand ball by Raúl Jiménez (Wolverhampton Wanderers).

Attempt missed. Víctor Gómez (Espanyol) right footed shot from the right side of the box is high and wide to the right.

Óscar Melendo (Espanyol) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers).

Offside, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Diogo Jota tries a through ball, but Adama Traoré is caught offside.

Attempt missed. Wu Lei (Espanyol) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Víctor Gómez with a cross.

Goal!

Goal! Wolverhampton Wanderers 2, Espanyol 0. Rúben Neves (Wolverhampton Wanderers) right footed shot from outside the box to the bottom left corner.

Attempt missed. Wu Lei (Espanyol) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Óscar Melendo with a cross.

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