Wolfsburg - In a battle between two teams competing for the European qualification spots, VfL Wolfsburg emerged victorious courtesy of a 3-1 win over second-placed Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Saturday evening.

After a hard-fought opening Bas Dost broke the deadlock for the hosts before Sidney Sam struck with the last kick of the first half to level the scores. The Wolves pushed on after the break as Luiz Gustavo and Ricardo Rodriguez rounded out the scoring, leaving the hosts just two points off the top four.

Dost does the business


Leverkusen established an early control on proceedings and, with time and space at a premium, looked far more composed in possession than their hosts, who more often than not ran into trouble when trying to carve out a chance of their own. However, with both sides waiting for the other to make the first mistake it was a moment of individual skill that saw Kevin De Bruyne skip into the box, producing the first shot of the game that caused Bernd Leno few problems.

However, just over a minute later and Leverkusen’s No1 could do little to prevent his side falling behind as Robin Knoche‘s pass carved the visitors’ backline apart, allowing Ivan Perisic to square to Dost, who tapped home from six yards out. Having taken the lead, Wolfsburg, the sharper and more aggressive of the two sides, dropped deeper in an attempt to make best use of their wing play on the counterattack.

Swings and roundabouts


That gave Bayer 04 the impetus to push forward, but a lack of creativity prevented them from posing a true threat against the Wolves’ deep-lying backline. Limited to taking pot shots from range, Lars Bender chanced his arm from 30 yards, forcing Diego Benaglio to concede a corner from which Sebastian Boenisch’s half-volley almost produced a leveller. However, the pressure finally told when Jens Hegeler broke down the right to tee-up Sam for his eighth goal of the season on the stroke of half-time.

Leverkusen were out of the blocks faster in the second half and looked to make use of the momentum they had generated before the break, yet continued to struggle when it came to producing the key pass in the final third. Offered the chance to break forward on the break, poor decision making cost the visitors as Kießling and Sam looked to combine despite Hegeler ghosting down the left unmarked.

Wolves bare teeth


Instead the Werkself were ruthlessly punished as, much like in the first half, the Wolves struck against the run of play. Naldo’s powerful free-kick was blocked by the Leverkusen wall, but Ivica Olic, on in place of the injured Dost, reacted quickest to the loose ball, driving it back across goal where Gustavo was on hand to poke home from close range. Rather than dropping completely back as they did in the first half, Wolfsburg now continued pressing high up the field.

As a result the chances didn’t dry up in the same manner as they had before the break, with the introduction of Daniel Caligiuri particularly influential in the Wolves maintaining an attack-minded approach. It soon paid dividends as Caligiuri cut in off the left flank, earning his side a penalty which Rodriguez buried at the second time of asking after Leno saved his initial spot-kick. Tired legs looked to cost Leverkusen in the closing stages as they failed to muster up a real response - a late goalmouth scramble aside -and instead succumbed to their third straight Bundesliga defeat.

James Thorogood

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