WOLVES survived an early fright before finally slipping into Cruse control in Belfast.
However Nuno Espirito Santo’s ‘reward’ for reaching the third qualifying round of the Europa League was a hellish third-round qualifying tie against FC Pyunik – in Armenia!
It means his weary Wolves players must make a gruelling 6,370-mile round trip to the mountainous South Caucasus nation – which shares a border with Iran and straddles Europe and Asia – less than three days before their opening game of the season at Leicester.
Nuno’s bleary-eyed players won’t return to base until the early hours of Friday morning following a mammoth seven hour flight. Hardly the preparation he would have wanted on the eve of the new campaign.
Closer to home Crusaders were seeking the same level of respect they had earned at Molineux seven days earlier, where only a stoppage time slip by ‘keeper captain Sean O’Neill gifted Wolves the comfort of a two-goal cushion.
The Belfast part-timers took the field to their club anthem – the Erasure 80’s hit: A Little Respect – however it has to be said the home fans failed to hit the same heights their players have over two legs!
WOLVES OFF KEY
Worryingly for the travelling 500 Wolves fans, their heroes also started the game on a bum note.
Despite Nuno’s pre-match warning to ignore their first-leg lead and treat this tie as if it was 0-0, it was Crusaders who hit their plastic surface running.
Only two minutes were on the clock when Wolves had Conor Coady thank for a goalline clearance after Jordan Owens’ looping header beat Rui Patricio but the Wolves skipper was on hand to head clear.
The Premier League giants failed to heed that early scare and disaster duly struck when Crusaders sensationally took the lead after 13 minutes.
Wolves’ wealthy stars were left red-faced when Jordan Forsythe swung over a cross from the right and, though Ryan Bennett beat Paul Heatley to the header the ball flew into his own net to give the home side the lead.
The 3,000 home fans were suddenly dreaming of pulling off a historic bit of giant-killing. However it didn’t last long.
Raul Jimenez promptly put them in their place to show why Nuno had shelled out £32.6million to make the Mexican’s loan deal permanent this summer.
Crusaders failed to clear the danger at the edge of their box and Jimenez wheeled to drill a low shot on the turn to leave O’Neill helpless.
Once level Wolves asserted their authority and Jimenez rippled the roof of the net with a flashing header from a Moutinho corner before Bennett atoned for his early mishap by giving Wolves the lead after 38 minutes.
Moutinho caused more mayhem with another whipped corner kick and Bennett powered his header high past O’Neill.
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Jimenez finally put this tricky little tie to bed on the stroke of half-time when he combined with Diogo Jota to slam another low shot home.
The striker then caused a slight panic 10 minutes after the restart when he caught his studs on the plastic turf and had to be replaced by Morgan Gibbs-White.
Wolves then made it four on the night with a little help from Crusaders’ Jordan Forsythe who headed Moutinho’s cross into his own net under pressure from Adama Traore.