Willy Boly serves up late Turkish delight for Wolves
Injury time winner gives Nuno Espirito Santo’s vital victory in Europa League
Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Willy Boly celebrates after scoring the winner against Besiktas in the Europa League. Photo: AP
Besiktas 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1
Wolves kickstarted their Europa League group stage campaign thanks to a stoppage-time goal by Willy Boly, who turned in a cross by Rúben Nevez to secure a memorable victory in Turkey. Wolves won all three of their away matches in the preliminary stages of this competition and Boly’s goal ensured this match ended up as the perfect way to atone for the home defeat by Braga in their first group game.
It does not matter now that they endured some fraught moments here before the dramatic finale.
It was clear from the outset that Besiktas were not quite as fearsome as might have been imagined. The atmosphere, for a start, seemed unlikely to spook Wolves, whose attempt to silence the local crowd was helped by the fact the hosts had been unable to attract a full house. Evidently, Besiktas’s struggles this season had drained some optimism from their supporters. The early play confirmed that the team in the relegation zone of the Turkish Super League were nothing special.
Rather than cower in a hostile reception, then, Wolves decided to play on the home team’s nerves by denying them space and hope. Keep things tight and the hosts will become twitchy and perhaps make errors to be exploited – that seemed to be the strategy. By the 20th minute it looked to be having the desired effect as Besiktas had managed to create so little with all their possession that the home fans began to barrack them for passing sideways.
If Wolves had done more to bare their own teeth around then, they might have really made their hosts panic. Instead they were a little too circumspect, effectively inviting Besiktas to regain courage and attack anew. Jeremain Lens began to worry Jonny Otto down the right wing, while Adam Ljajic darted about between the lines and chinks of vulnerability began to appear in the Wolves defence.
Still, almost half an hour had elapsed before anyone produced a shot of note, and that is rather generous classification of Ljajic’s effort that sailed high over the bar from 20 yards. What was significant about it was that the chance was created by Umut Nayir, the substitute who brought extra muscle to Besiktas’s frontline after replacing the injured Güven Yalçin.
Wolves gave Besiktas even more encouragement five minutes later when Boly tried an overelaborate move from the back, leading to Lens claiming the ball and skipping past Otto again. His pull-back was diverted over the bar by Dorukhan Tokoz.
Mohamed Elneny, the midfielder on loan from Arsenal, tried to reintroduce himself to the Premier League side by scoring from six yards, but his header from a corner by Ljajic flew over the bar. Just before half-time another corner caused even more trouble, with a deflection leading Conor Coady to slice it towards his own goal. The defender was grateful to see the ball bounce out off a post before he blocked Tokoz’s follow-up.
By half-time Wolves had failed to test the reliability of Besiktas’s other player on loan from the Premier League, with Liverpool’s Lorius Karius practically a spectator.
Nuno Espírito Santo recognised that something had to be done to get his side on the front foot. He took off Pedro Neto during the interval and cast on Adama Traoré. That gave Wolves more impetus, though Besiktas were the first to threaten after the break, Caner Erkin forcing a save from Rui Patrício from long-range. It was the game’s first shot on target.
Wolves soon mustered an effort of their own, albeit without troubling Karius, as Raúl Jiménez headed over a free-kick by João Moutinho.
On the hour mark Boly met a corner from the right but headed over from six yards.
With the game opening up, Domagoj Vida flashed a header inches wide in the 68th minute and Patrick Cutrone, on for Jiménez, fired wide of the far post after being released by a counterattack.
Wolves thought they had snatched victory in the dying minutes when Romain Saïss turned the ball into net from close range after a header from a corner had been spilled. The linesman ruled it out for offside and with VAR not being used in the Europa League until the knockout stages there was no prospect of the decision being overruled.
No matter, Wolves did the business themselves, claiming victory in the third minute of stoppage time when Boly stretched out of a leg at the back post to divert a cross from Neves into the net. – Guardian