Willy Boly wrote his name into Wolves folklore as his stoppage-time goal snatched Wolves a 1-0 victory against Besiktas in the Europa League in Istanbul.
The game looked to be heading for a goalless draw but the big defender was on hand to score a goal befitting of a striker rather than a centre half.
Ruben Neves floated a ball over the top of the home defence and Boly took a touch before turning and firing the ball past Loris Karius, who smacked the pitch in frustration afterwards.
The goal ensured Wolves were off the mark in this season’s competition, having been beaten at home by Braga last month, and gave the club its first win in European football for almost exactly 39 years.
Wanderers’ last success came in the UEFA Cup on October 1 1980, when a Mel Eves goal gave them a 1-0 win against PSV Eindhoven at Molineux.
It was reward for a much-improved second-half performance having ridden their luck at times during the Group K clash, especially in the first half when Besiktas hit the woodwork.
With Braga and Slovan Bratislava drawing in Portugal, it puts Wolves right in contention just a point behind the other teams in the group.
— Wolves (@Wolves) October 3, 2019
Besiktas began brightly and enjoyed much of the early possession. When Wolves had the ball a cacophony of deafening whistles from the home supporters echoed around Vodafone Park.
Those whistles got louder the more Wolves attacked, which as the first half progressed became more frequent. Unperturbed by the hostilities, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side persisted with their patient build-up play.
It led to their first chance of the match after 28 minutes when Pedro Neto escaped down the left side of the penalty area and his deflected cross had to be smothered by Karius at his near post.
Besiktas responded with a strong finish to the first half as Wolves survived a series of near misses.
Adem Ljajic and then substitute Mehmet Nayir, on after Guven Yalcin had to go off with what looked like a back injury, should both have done better than shoot wildly over the crossbar following good work down the left by Jeremain Lens, who was beginning to give Jonny a difficult time.
A corner on the opposite side bounced off Conor Coady and hit the crossbar, with the Wolves captain then reacting to block the rebound. Just before the break, a sliding block from Boly denied Nayir.
Wolves made a change at half-time with Adama Traore replacing Neto, but it was Besiktas who remained on the front foot at the start of the second half as Caner Erkin’s long-range effort was well held by Rui Patricio, with attackers closing in for a fumbled loose ball.
If the plan was for Traore’s pace to cause the hosts problems and create chances for Wolves, then it showed promising early signs.
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) October 3, 2019
After the winger was fouled by the right touchline, Joao Moutinho’s cross from the resulting free-kick saw Raul Jimenez glance a header just over the crossbar. Shortly afterwards, Traore won a corner and this time Boly headed Moutinho’s cross over.
Wolves were asking questions of Besiktas for the first time in the match and Romain Saiss forced Karius to push away his 30-yard attempt as the midway point of the second half approached.
Despite their improvement, Wolves rode their luck again when Domagoj Vida powered a header narrowly wide from Ljajic’s cross.
Nuno’s team had the home fans anxious enough for the whistling to return. Substitute Patrick Cutrone momentarily silenced them as he curled a shot just wide from inside the box.
Wolves had the ball in the net in the final minute of normal time but Saiss’ close-range tap in was ruled out for offside. It looked close but there is no VAR in the Europa League.
That decision was quickly forgotten, though, as Boly snatched the win in stoppage time.