Wolverhampton Wanderers' Maliense forward Adama Traore (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the UEFA Europa League round of 32 second leg football match between RCD Espanyol and Wolverhampton Wanderers
Europa League, Last-32, RCDE Stadium - Espanyol 3 (Calleri 16', 57', 90') Wolves 2 (Traore 22', Doherty 80') (Aggregate: 3-6)
Jonathan Calleri’s hat-trick inspired Espanyol to a 3-2 win in the second leg of their Europa League last-32 tie with Wolves, but it wasn’t enough as the Premier League side booked their place in the next round.
It should have been an easy night, but it didn’t turn out that way. Wolves twice came from behind through Adama Traore and Matt Doherty, but the Argentine won it at the death.
The home side appeared to have no chance in this tie after a 4-0 collapse at Molineux last week, but they started with purpose.
Calleri was a real threat from the off, and moments after failing to spring the offside trap before forcing an unknowing Rui Patricio into a superb save, he put Espanyol ahead as Adria Pedrosa’s cross was fired into the roof of the net.
Caution was thrown to the wind, but Wolves were jolted into action. Despite leaving out first leg goalscorers Diogo Jota and Ruben Neves completely, and Raul Jimenez on the bench, they still carried a threat. Daniel Podence and Traore combined to level the scores on 22 minutes.
From then, Wolves settled into a rhythm, with Joao Moutinho setting the tone in midfield. But Calleri remained dangerous, and he thought he had a case for a penalty when he went down trying to reach Matias Vargas’ cross 10 minutes before the break. The referee was unmoved.
After the break Podence almost made progression an even greater formality as he broke forward with a driving run. With Traore alongside him, he opted to shoot from distance, but his effort whistled over.
Just shy of the hour mark, Espanyol retook the lead through Calleri from the penalty spot. A mistake by Ruben Vinagre, who was substituted as a result, led to a high boot from Max Kilman on David Lopez.
Espanyol gained confidence and pushed for a third with the introduction of Wu Lei, but Wolves weren’t overextending themselves. Podence got his second assist of the night when he crossed for Doherty to net an equaliser with 10 minutes remaining.
Pedro Neto then missed an open goal, and Espanyol punished him at the other end. Calleri completed his hat-trick, heading home Pipa’s cross, much to Nuno Espirito Santo's annoyance.
TALKING POINT – Espanyol restore pride but mountain was too tall to climb
After last week’s humiliation, it was always going to be tough. Truth be told, Espanyol have more important things to worry about, sitting bottom of La Liga. They may not have progressed, but they’ll have gained a lot of confidence for the weeks ahead. Wolves were passive at times and, while they warranted a draw, got punished in the end.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Jonathan Calleri (Espanyol)
Apart from his three goals, Calleri was impressive on the night. He led the line well and battled against Conor Coady and Willy Boly on a difficult evening. The former West Ham man gave everyone a reminder of his quality. He could be key amid the continued issues surrounding Espanyol’s record-signing Raul de Tomas.