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Wolves 0 – 1 Sporting Braga

Wolves’ first appearance in the main stage of a European competition since 1980 ended in defeat as they lost 1-0 to Sporting Braga in their Europa League Group K opener at Molineux.

The visitors struck in the second half through Ricardo Horta’s fierce effort.

Leander Dendoncker had Wolves’ best chance but his close-range effort early in the second half was saved.

The defeat was Wolves’ third in succession after Premier League losses against Everton and Chelsea.

The hosts had been the better side in the first half, with Patrick Cutrone a particular menace and the Italian should have done better with a low strike that flew wide of the far post.

Sporting Braga had rarely threatened up to that point with their only shot on target in the first 70 minutes a tame Paulinho effort.

But the Portuguese side, who reached the final of the competition in 2010-11, took full advantage of a defensive mistake when Ryan Bennett’s hit a sloppy pass straight at Wenderson Galeno and the forward charged towards goal before squaring a ball for Horta to finish.

Wolves threw everything at the Braga defence in the final few minutes to try and rescue a draw but were unable to find an equaliser, with Raul Jimenez flicking a header wide of goal in the final minute of stoppage time.

There was a real sense of occasion before kick-off as Wolves fans gathered at Molineux to witness their side play in a major European competition for the first time since the 1980-81 Uefa Cup, with kick-off preceded by a dazzling light show.

Initially, the game itself failed to live up to the glitzy opening with Wolves looking nervous, perhaps still licking their wounds following the 5-2 defeat at Chelsea last time out.

As the game wore on they grew in confidence but promising attacks often ended in disappointment with decision-making in the final third let them down.

Wolves’ impressive seventh-place finish on their return to the Premier League last season was built on a high-tempo style of football, with quick, incisive passing and clinical finishing – but those characteristics have only been seen in glimpses in this campaign and it was more of the same in this game.

Including the six Europa League qualifiers, this was Wolves’ 12th game of the season – many of their domestic rivals have only played half that. The challenges of fighting on numerous fronts appear to be proving a difficult balancing act for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.

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Source – BBC

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