Jimenez scores brace as Wolves stun Pyunik in Europa

Raul Jimenez scored twice as Wolves took firm control of their Europa League third-round qualifier against Armenian side Pyunik with a dominant first-leg display in Yerevan.

Returning from pre-season injury, Republic of Ireland right-back Matt Doherty slotted into the bottom corner from Diogo Jota’s pass to put the visitors ahead after 29 minutes.

Jota provided two further assists for strike partner Jimenez either side of the interval, allowing the unmarked Mexican to fire into the roof of the net three minutes before half-time and then add his side’s third 35 seconds after the restart.

Second-half substitute Ruben Neves converted an injury-time penalty, won by £16m summer signing Patrick Cutrone, as Wolves – competing in Europe for the first time since 1980 – recorded their biggest ever continental victory.

Manager Nuno Espirito Santo handed a first appearance to AC Milan arrival Cutrone as Doherty, Jota and Jimenez were withdrawn in anticipation of the club’s opening Premier League fixture away to Leicester City on Sunday.

The second leg against Pyunik takes place at Molineux next Thursday (19:45), with the winners playing either Italian side Torino or Shakhtyor Soligorsk of Belarus in the play-off round on August 22 or 29 – the final qualifying round before the group stages.

A 6,370-mile round journey to the Armenian capital three days before the club’s opening Premier League fixture presented a far from ideal situation for Wolves, who claimed a seventh-place league finish last term.

Following a comfortable 6-1 aggregate victory over Northern Irish side Crusaders in the previous round, Wolves prepared meticulously for their trip to Yerevan with the squad reportedly undertaking a mid-flight workout in preparation.

A similar post-match session is planned for the players – who began their Europa League qualifying on 25 July – and, on Thursday’s evidence, they appear suitably fit and hungry to build on last season’s achievements.

Initially lacking a cutting edge, Doherty’s fine finish from his side’s first shot on target prompted slick waves of attacks as Jota missed his opportunity to double the lead.

Jimenez, Gold Cup winner with Mexico over the summer, was twice presented ample time to select his spot following tireless work by Jota – with the pair continuing their electric form of last season

It took 50 minutes for 14-time Armenian champions Pyunik to register a shot on target, as their hopes of reaching the group stages of European competition for the first time were all but ended for another year.

Neves’ late penalty added deserved gloss for Wolves, for whom another promising and eventful season dawns. –BBC

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