Uefa europa league

Wolves close on Europa group stage with thumping win

Wolves moved a step closer to reaching the Europa League group stage for the first time as Raul Jimenez scored twice in a 4-0 thrashing of Armenia’s Pyunik in the third qualifying round, first leg, on Thursday.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves, who made it into qualifying by finishing seventh in the Premier League last season as a newly-promoted club, made short work of their hosts in Yerevan.

Wing-back Matt Doherty, who scored eight goals last term, rolled in a 29th-minute opener, before Jimenez made it two three minutes before halftime.

Mexican international Jimenez grabbed his fourth goal of qualifying shortly after the restart, having also netted two against Crusaders in the previous round.

New signing Patrick Cutrone was given a debut as a late substitute, and won an injury-time penalty which Ruben Neves converted to all but put the tie to bed.

Wolves, who lost to Tottenham in the 1972 Uefa Cup final and are playing their first European campaign since 1980, will likely face a tricky play-off round against Torino should they complete the job against Pyunik and the Italians beat Belarus’ Shakhtyor.

Torino, seventh-placed finishers in Serie A last season, cruised past Shakhtyor 5-0 with Italy striker Andrea Belotti scoring twice.

Steven Gerrard’s Rangers boosted their bid to play in the group stage for a second straight year with a hard-fought 4-2 victory over Midtjylland in Denmark.

Goals from Alfredo Morelos, Joe Aribo and Nikola Katic saw the Scots take a 3-0 lead inside an hour, but Rangers switched off to concede twice during a five-minute spell in the second half.

Former Burnley midfielder Scott Arfield gave Rangers a two-goal cushion to take back to Ibrox, though, scoring with 20 minutes to play.

“I’m proud of the performance. Everyone to a man was fantastic tonight,” Gerrard told Rangers TV. “It’s a great result but it’s only halftime and there’s still a lot of work to do.

“We need to carry out the gameplan in the second leg exactly like the boys did it tonight.”

Former winners PSV Eindhoven, who were narrowly pipped to the Dutch league title last term by Champions League semifinalists Ajax, claimed a 1-0 win over Haugesund in Norway thanks to Steven Bergwijn’s 24th-minute penalty.

Their fellow Eredivisie giants Feyenoord also eased towards the playoff round with a 4-0 thrashing of 10-man Dinamo Tbilisi.

Eintracht Frankfurt, who suffered an agonising semifinal loss to eventual winners Chelsea on penalties earlier this year, romped to a 5-0 success over Vaduz in the Liechtenstein capital.

Elsewhere on Thursday, Aberdeen lost 2-0 to Rijeka in Croatia, while Astana thrashed Valletta 5-1 in Kazakhstan, Portuguese side Braga won 4-2 at Brondby and Bulgarian champions Ludugorets Razgrad hammered Welsh team TNS 5-0

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