Tonight’s extortionately priced programme harked back to some of our international conquests of old.
Racing Club of Buenos Aires, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Moscow Spartak and, most famously, Honved are just some of the teams that have been vanquished under the Molineux floodlights.
Tonight’s opponents, having made only a short trip from Belfast, were never likely to bring the same glamour to our first European contest in 39 years.
But with Molineux raucous by kick-off, everyone was clearly delighted to welcome in the new season.
Sadly, the occasion didn’t live up to its billing.
Despite the strength of our starting eleven, we struggled to break down opponents that, for all their commitment and organisation, were clearly limited.
The build-up play was certainly as neat as ever, but Nuno’s side often overcomplicated things when attempting to break Crusaders’ resistance.
After close to 40 minutes of huffing and puffing, a breakthrough eventually came thanks to a usual suspect.
Diogo Jota lashed home an excellent cross from Adama Traore and Molineux breathed a collective sigh of relief.
More frustration ensued in the second half, as the boys in old gold made little of their dominance in possession.
Even the introduction of our fabled number nine did little to change proceedings, something which no doubt caused those in the away end to begin fantasising about a famous cup upset in next week’s reverse fixture.
Thankfully, Sean O’Neill’s calamity keeping in injury time left any such notion looking like a pipe dream at best.
An otherwise disappointing Ruben Vinagre punished the stopper’s spillage and tucked home our second of the night, giving the scoreline a more accomplished look.
2-0 should be enough to see us through to another not-so-glamorous qualifier, but on tonight’s evidence we’ll need to sharpen up our attacking play against stronger opposition.
Aside from being back at Molineux, Traore’s performance was the undoubted highlight of this fixture.
He looks more focused than last season and is starting to use the ball more intelligently. I genuinely felt sorry for Crusaders’ left back, who had a torrid time keeping up with our buccaneering Spaniard. If he can maintain tonight’s form, he’ll be like a new signing.
On the subject of new recruits, hopefully we’ll start welcoming some in the next few days.
That being said, I’m fairly relaxed with what I’ve seen so far in pre-season and the fact I’m even writing a report about a Wolves European fixture is enough for me to sit back and enjoy the ride while it lasts.