- Bratislava ‘keeper Dominik Greif denied Raul Jimenez with a fine first-half save
- Wolves were awarded a penalty after Pedro Neto was tripped by Vasil Bozhikov
- Greif held his nerve and dived the right way to save Ruben Neves’ spot-kick
- Kenan Bajric was taken off on a stretcher after suffering a serious head injury
- Raul Jimenez met Adama Traore’s deflected cross to head in the decisive goal
Raul Jimenez (left) celebrates his decisive goal in Wolves’ win over Slovan Bratislava
The Mexican forward rises highest to head into the top corner in second-half stoppage time
Ruben Neves missed a golden chance to give Wolves the lead after Pedro Neto was fouled
Slovan Bratislava goalkeeper Dominik Greif dives to his right to save Ruben Neves’ penalty
Slovan Bratislava star Kenan Bajric fires past Rui Patricio and into the side-netting
Bajric received medical attention and was wearing a neck brace as he was taken off
Slovan Bratislava goalkeeper Dominik Greif denies Raul Jimenez with a fine first-half save
Wolves winger Adama Traore dribbles past Slovan Bratislava midfielder Rabiu Ibrahim
Wolves defender Matt Doherty protects the ball during the first half at Moluineux
Raul Jimenez put Wolves on the brink of the Europa League knockout stages but their victory was marred by a head injury to Kenan Bajric that saw the Slovan defender taken to hospital.
Shortly before he headed Adama Traore’s cross beyond the excellent Dominik Greif, Jimenez looked distraught after his overhead-kick inadvertently caught Bajric in the face, leading to a long delay and 12 minutes’ added time.
Bajric was eventually taken from the field on a stretcher, with his neck in a brace. At the time of the incident, Greif had raced towards his team-mate and all players looked extremely concerned.
‘At the moment it looks like it’s a head injury and it’s quite serious,’ said Slovan coach Jan Kozak. ‘He is not going home with us, he is going to stay here and be observed.’ A Slovan spokesman added that Bajric was ‘conscious, but has concussion’.
‘It is difficult for all of us,’ said Jimenez. ‘I don’t know what to say. I hope he recovers well.’
Jimenez recovered his composure to prove decisive yet again for Wolves, taking them to nine points in the group. One more point from their final two games, at Braga later this month and at home to Besiktas in December, will ensure Wolves reach the last 32 of the Europa League, in their first European campaign since 1980-81.
Since the start of last season, Jimenez has scored 29 goals in all competitions for Wolves, 15 more than any other player for the club in that period. He is one of the best forwards in the business, and easily Wolves’ most important player.
Wolves: Rui Patrício, Dendoncker, Coady, Kilman, Doherty, Neves, Moutinho, Vinagre (Otto 90+7), Traoré (Bennett 90+9), Jiménez, Neto (Cutrone 69)
Subs not used: Vallejo, Otto, Ruddy, Perry, Saïss
Goals: Jimenez (90+2)
Slovan Bratislava: Greif, Medvedev, Bajric (Ljubicic 89), Abena, Bozhikov, Morlacchi, Drazic, de Kamps, Ibrahim (Danie 90+7), da Silva (Sukhotsky 70), Sporar
Subs not used: Delgado Villar, Holman, Sulla, Trnovsky
Referee: Bas Nijhuis
His record made it all the more puzzling that he did not take the penalty early in the second half that was missed by Ruben Neves.
Ruben Neves looked to have wasted Wolves’ best chance of victory when his spot-kick was saved by Greif. Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo confirmed Neves had been the nominated penalty-taker for this match, even though Jimenez had scored from the spot in Wolves’ 2-1 win in Bratislava two weeks ago, and has scored 22 of 23 kicks since the start of the 2012-13 campaign.
‘Ruben has to practise – he struck it so badly,’ said Nuno. ‘Credit to the goalkeeper, he was in the perfect spot to stop it, but it was high and slow – bad.’
Wolves began well, with Adama Traore looking particularly lively on the right, but they struggled to locate the decisve pass – and found Greif in inspired form. He did brilliantly to keep out Joao Moutinho’s deflected strike in the eighth minute, and then made an even better save to turn Jimenez’s low, angled effort around the post for a corner.
It would have been a superb goal as Jimenez’s first-time strike from Matt Doherty’s pass from deep was heading for the far corner.
Slovan’s only clear chance came in the sixth minute, when Bajric sliced a volley wide from six yards when unmarked at the far post, following Vernon De Marco’s flick.
Wolves had the perfect chance to force Slovan out of their shell early in the second half, when they won the penalty for skipper Vasil Bozhikov’s clumsy foul on Pedro Neto.
Play was delayed by nearly three minutes as Neto received treatment for the stamp on his heel, and perhaps this disturbed Neves as he was denied by Greif, flinging himself to his right to keep out the strike.
Greif continued to excel in the Slovan goal, this time pushing away Doherty’s close-range volley following a brilliant lofted pass from Moutinho.
After the long stoppage for Bajric’s injury, Jimenez finally made his mark by climbing brilliantly to reach Traore’s cross and beat Greif.
‘We have to improve,’ said Nuno. ‘We had chances where we could have done better. We arrived many times to the goal line and the action must be finished.’ With Jimenez in their ranks, though, Wolves will always be feared.