Doherty helps Wolves into last 32 of Europa League
Wolves let 3-1 lead slip but draw enough to reach last 32
Matt Doherty of Wolverhampton Wanderers celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal against Braga. Photograph: Octavio Passos/Getty Images
Braga 3 Wolves 3
Wolves reached the Europa League knockout stages with a game to spare despite blowing a two-goal lead in Braga.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side suffered a second-half stumble to draw 3-3 in Portugal.
But second-half goals from Paulinho and captain Fransergio rescued Braga to also send them into the last 32.
They remain top of Group K, a point ahead of Wolves, ahead of the final matches on December 12.
Thursday also allowed Wolves to briefly forget any speculation linking boss Nuno to Arsenal but early qualification only served to enhance his reputation.
Both sides needed just a point needed to reach the last 32 but Braga laid the first claim for all three after six minutes.
Even then, the opener came from nothing when Andre Horta collected the ball 30 yards out.
His drive deflected off Ruben Neves’ boot to fly past the helpless Rui Patricio for the winger’s first goal since August.
Wolves, though, responded just eight minutes later to equalise.
The visitors had endured a quiet start but Jonny was afforded too much space on the left to float a perfect cross to the far post for Jimenez to net his 15th goal of the season.
Wolves were unchanged from their 2-1 win at Bournemouth and their strength became apparent as they took control once level.
Traore’s drilled cross just evaded Diogo Jota’s outstretched leg before Jota dragged an angled drive across goal.
Braga, the 2011 beaten finalists, quickly retreated and Wolves punished them with a quickfire double.
First, Ireland international Doherty ran unchecked into the area to plant a fine header past the exposed Eduardo from Jimenez’s cute cross after 34 minutes.
Just 81 seconds later the visitors added a third when Jimenez fed Traore and he drilled through former Chelsea goalkeeper Eduardo.
The game looked won and Jota was denied a fourth when he headed at Eduardo five minutes after the break.
The visitors were in cruise control but Braga shocked them after 64 minutes when Paulinho pulled a goal back, tapping in Galeno’s low centre.
Wolves were ruffled and Jimenez was booked for dragging down Joao Palhinha, meaning he will miss the final game against Besiktas.
The visitors continued to falter and Braga levelled with 11 minutes left to keep their European dreams alive.
Nuno Sequeira crossed from the right and skipper Fransergio headed in from six yards.