It was a case of silence and stalemate for Wolves as they emerged from Olympiakos’s quietened cauldron with a draw and an away goal. The result was decent enough against the team that dramatically beat Arsenal in the previous round, but with their opponents reduced to 10 men when Rúben Semedo was sent off with more than an hour remaining they might have taken a firmer grip on the tie. Perhaps, however, their players could be forgiven for approaching the fixture with a certain lack of enthusiasm.
Wolves always thought this game was “an unnecessary risk”, failing in an attempt to convince Uefa to abandon it, while shortly before kick-off Nuno Espírito Santo described the very idea of playing it as “absurd”. None of this will be found in any motivational handbook, and the players duly started as if unsure whether this was a game they were determined to win or desperate to avoid.
The famously fiery stands of the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis were rendered silent even if, as has become this week’s trend, a group of hardcore fans assembled outside the ground to support their team from afar – though they fell silent barely midway through the first half – but the home side still started on the front foot. Adama Traoré did offer some respite with his runs down the right, but twice his crosses found Diogo Jota competing with the 6ft 3in centre-back Semedo in the middle, a hopeless mismatch.
But with just under half an hour played that battle swung heavily in Wolves’ favour. A spell of Olympiakos pressure ended with the visitors springing forward on the counter and when Traoré was fouled in the centre circle the ball ran through to Raúl Jiménez and the referee waved play on. The Mexican in turn found Jota, who raced forward, prodded the ball past Semedo and was tripped, just outside the area.
Here again the empty stands may have played a part, there being no intimidatory atmosphere to coax the French official towards leniency – not for nothing had Olympiakos only had to deal with one sending-off at home in the last five years, and that in 2017 – and Clément Turpin reached immediately for a red.
Wolves’ priority had been to contain and frustrate, and even with a numerical advantage they remained cautious. There were only two shots on target in the first half, both from the home side and neither at all threatening. The break gave Nuno a chance to reconfigure and he used it to take off Matt Doherty, who had been booked early on for a foul on Kostas Tsimikas, and bring on Pedro Neto, shifting Traoré into a wing-back role. With the home side now committing numbers to defence Wolves took control of possession in the early stages of the second half, a period of apparent comfort that suddenly ended when Olympiakos scored on the break.
Mohamed Camara, for the first time all game, set off on a run down the right before passing infield to Guilherme, whose surge towards the box had left Rúben Vinagre trailing miserably in his wake, and he reached the byline before sending the ball across goal, where Youssef El Arabi, despite Rúben Neves’s last-ditch, desperate attempt to intervene, had a tap-in.
Wolves soon resettled and five minutes later Neves’s pass created a fabulous opportunity for Raúl Jiménez, who lashed a vicious shot straight into the face of the home goalkeeper, José Sá. Soon afterwards they were level, with Andreas Bouchalakis twice a villain for Olympiakos. First he fouled Jota 25 yards out, then at the free-kick he strayed from the wall and deflected Neto’s unpromising low shot past Sá.