Julen Lopetegui satisfied with his first victory on a “special” evening

Julen Lopetegui hailed a special day after taking charge of Wolves for the first time with a hard-fought Carabao Cup win over League Two strugglers Gillingham.

Late goals from substitutes Raul Jimenez and Rayan Ait-Nouri saw the Premier League bottom side claim a place in the quarter-finals with a 2-0 win at Molineux on Tuesday.

Lopetegui admitted his side will face tougher challenges than taking on the 92nd-ranked club in the pyramid, but the Spaniard was delighted to be up and running.

The former Spain and Real Madrid manager was named Bruno Lage’s permanent successor last month but had to wait for top-flight football to resume after the World Cup break to put his plans into action.

He said: “For me it’s a very special day and of course I’m very happy – but it’s mostly for the team because we wanted to be in the next round.

“We’ve tried to show a lot of things that we’ve been working on over the past few weeks, but these kinds of games are tough against teams that have nothing to lose.

“We worked with good focus and concentration and at the end we are very happy.

“Now we have to look forward to the next games. We have a difficult task ahead, but we must be ready for it. We have a lot of things to improve. »

Mexican striker Jimenez’s appearance was his first for the club since August.

Lopetegui said: “It’s good for Raul and it’s good for us. All forwards want to score and it will be important for his confidence.

Gillingham struggled to get out of his own half as Wolves dominated possession but their stubbornness was commendable, especially as it later emerged their side had been hit with a flu bug this week .

Manager Neil Harris, himself hoarse from a sore throat, revealed he was going to the game rather than traveling on the team bus to avoid passing the infection on further.

Harris said: “I’m proud of my players. These 48 hours have been difficult for us. We have a problem in the camp, as you can tell by my voice, that’s why we only had four (outfield) substitutes tonight.

“We dug. The game went as planned and at times we were forced into a back five or even a back six.

“They had the ball but we forced them around with our disciplined form. They struggled to break us down and losing the first goal like we did was frustrating. It was a very close call.

“But on the balance of the game, you can’t deny Wolves deserved to win the game.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *