Diogo Jota is the first player to score a hat-trick after coming on as a substitute in the Europa League since Steven Gerrard for Liverpool against Napoli in November 2010

Wolves were denied top spot in their Europa League group, despite substitute Diogo Jota’s 11-minute hat-trick inspiring victory over Besiktas.

After a drab first half, Jota came on as a 56th-minute substitute and headed in 72 seconds later to lift Molineux.

He added a second six minutes later, reacting sharply to turn in when Leander Dendoncker’s shot hit the post before the Belgian headed in a third.

Jota fired in a fourth but Braga won 4-2 at Slovan Bratislava to top Group K.

The Portuguese side, who would not have topped the group if they failed to win after Wolves took control against Besiktas, were trailing 2-1 after 70 minutes before turning the match back in their favour.

Wolves were already assured of progressing whatever happened in the final round of group matches and go into Monday’s draw for the knockout stage as one of the 12 runners-up.

Easy as one, two, three for Jota…

Combining their first European campaign in almost 40 years with the rigours of the Premier League season is a task which Wolves have juggled to good effect so far.

With the Molineux men already though, and Besiktas’s visit being their 30th game of the season, manager Nuno Espirito Santo used the opportunity – as expected – to shuffle his pack and give opportunities to some of his fringe players.

The Portuguese boss makes seven changes from Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Brighton with only skipper Conor Coady and midfield trio Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho and Dendoncker keeping their places.

Yet the incoming players failed to deliver in a drab first half where Wolves played with little urgency.

Jota’s introduction changed both mood and momentum in spectacular fashion.

The Portuguese forward picked up where he left off at Brighton, having scored both of Wolves’ goals, with another masterclass in clinical opportunism.

An intelligent run towards the far post allowed him to convert Pedro Neto’s cutback with his first touch, instinctively reacting quickest to prod in the second as the Besiktas backline dithered.

And Jota completed a memorable hat-trick – the fastest scored in the Europa League since September 2014 – when he again perfectly timed a run to the far post to meet Oskar Buur’s precise cross between Besiktas’s keeper Utku Yuvakuran and his static defence.

“I think everyone that is on the bench wants to come and make an impact, fortunately for me that impact was very good,” he said.

Wolves boss Nuno has challenged Jota to keep up his current hot streak.

“He must do what he is doing every day, be really competitive, train well and prepare himself,” the Portuguese boss said.

“Be like he is on the pitch, always fighting, always looking for space, always running. Keep on keeping going.”

Who could Wolves play in the last 32?

Although Wolves will have been hoping to finish top of their group, and therefore avoiding some of the bigger names in the last 32, they could not have asked much more from their debut season in Europe’s secondary club competition.

In a continental campaign which started back in July and has now spanned 12 games, they have eased into the knockout phase with little cause for concern.

Now they await the identity of their next opponents when the draw is made in Nyon, Switzerland on Monday (12:00 GMT).

Finishing runners-up behind Braga means they will face a group winner or one of the four best-ranked sides which have dropped down from the Champions League.

The likes of last year’s Champions League semi- finalists Ajax, Italian giants Inter Milan or Spanish side Sevilla are potential opponents, while a tie against Scottish champions Celtic is also a possibility.

However, Wolves cannot face Manchester United or Arsenal – winners of their respective groups – because teams from the same nation are kept apart at this stage of the tournament.

The first leg of the last 32 is scheduled for Thursday, 20 February, with the second legs taking place a week later.

“It was a good game, we played well, we scored goals, defended well and were organised. It was a well played game,” Nuno added.

“It was a tough competition and we’ve progressively got better. We fight game by game and it’s taken us to the knockout stage.

“We are delighted to be there but now we put it aside and wait for the draw.”

Man of the match – Diogo Jota (Wolves)

Who else? Three shots, three goals in 12 minutes after coming on. A truly match-winning performance

What’s next?

Wolves turn their attentions back to the Premier League, where they are sat in sixth place and on an 11-match unbeaten run, when they host seventh-placed Tottenham on Sunday (14:00 GMT).

It is their fifth game in 15 days of a hectic December where they play eight matches across the Premier League, Europa League and League Cup, a schedule which Nuno has labelled “absurd”.


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