Substitute Pedro Neto scored a valuable away goal for Wolves as they drew with 10-man Olympiakos in their Europa League last-16 tie played behind closed doors over coronavirus concerns.
The Premier League side, who wanted the game postponed, faced 10 men from the 28th minute after last-man Ruben Semedo was sent off for fouling Diogo Jota.
But Wolves laboured and went behind when Youssef El Arabi tapped home.
Neto equalised with a low driven free-kick that took a deflection.
Wolves had largely underwhelmed inside the eerie Karaiskakis Stadium and their only other clear-cut chance was when Raul Jimenez’s angled strike struck the face of goalkeeper Jose Sa.
The second leg is next Thursday, but whether it is played depends on Uefa’s decision over whether to cancel its club competitions because of the increasing threat of coronavirus.
If it does go ahead Wolves will need to be in a better frame of mind. They did not want to play this fixture and manager Nuno Espirito Santo said it was “absurd” it proceeded despite concerns over the pandemic.
Some of the concerns were prompted by the news Evangelos Marinakis, owner of the Greek club as well as Nottingham Forest, had contracted the virus this week. However, no other Olympiakos players and staff tested positive.
The unusual build-up may have played on the minds of the players during the opening quarter – or it could have been the atmosphere inside the Karaiskakis Stadium, which was like that of a practice match.
Neto comes to Wolves’ rescue
Semedo’s sending off, after bringing down Jota on the edge of the area, should have sparked the Midlands club into life as the match headed towards half-time. But save for winger Adama Traore, whose livelier efforts were ultimately fruitless, no Wolves player raised their game.
The introduction of Neto at half-time failed to have an immediate effect; instead nine minutes after the restart, El Arabi, the bane of Arsenal, fired in after good work by Guilherme in the area.
The Greek side looked comfortable until the 67th minute when Neto drove in a free-kick that beat Sa thanks to a deflection off Andreas Bouchalakis.
At 20 years and three days, the Portuguese forward became the club’s youngest goalscorer in major European competition since Steve Daley netted against Ferencvaros in the Uefa Cup in April 1972.
The rest of the match was as uneventful as the first quarter and Nuno’s side now face a wait to find out if their Europa League journey, which started in July, will continue.
‘It was not the best game to watch for sure’ – reaction
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo speaking to BT Sport: “It stays with me because I have to work on it and analyse it.
“The beginning of the game was strange. The energy levels were missing… someone to push.
“It was not a very good game of football. We had control and possession of the ball but didn’t imbalance them with chances.
“It was not the best game to watch for sure.”
On whether the players were fully focused: “Let’s be fair to the players and everybody with what’s happening. During the game they were focused. Olympiakos is a very good team.
“Now we are going to think about West Ham. We keep on working. Now we have West Ham and hopefully next Thursday we play again.
“We have a long way to go. A lot of matches. So tough, so tough. The schedule is very tight.”
El Arabi on song again in Europe – stats
- Wolves have lost just one of their eight Europa League away games this season including qualifiers (W5 D2), a 2-3 defeat at Espanyol in the last round.
- Including qualifiers, Olympiakos have lost just two of their last 10 home games in all European competition against English sides (W5 D3), with both defeats coming against Arsenal.
- Wolves have conceded the first goal in eight of their last nine away games in all competitions, with the only exception during this run being a goalless draw at Manchester United in February.
- El-Arabi has scored in four of his last five appearances for Olympiakos in Europe (four goals – Europa League and Champions League combined).
- No Premier League side has seen their opponents receive more red cards in all competitions this season than Wolves (six – level with Aston Villa).
- Semedo was sent off in the 28th minute – the fifth-fastest red card to be shown in the Europa League this season.