The relief was palpable among the VfL Wolfsburg players after a 2-0 victory over PFC CSKA Moskva took them top of a tight UEFA Champions League Group B with only one game remaining.
Pleased with the result, most of the Wolves stars were happy to stop and chat in the bowels of the Arena Khimki, but one was conspicuous by his absence. Creating Wolfsburg’s opener, an Igor Akinfeev’s own-goal, from nothing and then scoring himself two minutes from time, Andre Schürrle had done his talking where it mattered: on the field.
“Andre has done plenty of talking lately,” said Max Kruse, who himself enjoyed an excellent game, in reference to his team-mate’s lack of willingness to speak to the media. “We’ve always believed in him and today he showed what he can do.”
Naldo: 'Today was very important'
Wolfsburg centre-half Naldo concurred: “You can see that he’s really trying and he played really well. Today should have given him plenty of confidence as it showed just how much quality he has. Let’s hope he can start doing this more and more. Andre’s still very young but today was definitely very important for him.”
Indeed, coming on at 0-0 in the 61st minute, it took the 2014 World Cup hero just six minutes to make an impact, playing a key role in the game’s defining moment. Refusing to give up a lost ball, the Germany international harassed the CSKA defence, latching onto possession when it was lost and firing a powerful shot at Akinfeev. The goalkeeper squirmed awkwardly, directing the ball under his body for Wolfsburg to take the lead.
“Andre came on and was the man who made the difference,” explained Maximilian Arnold, adding: "Although it was perhaps a little bit fortunate, I definitely think we deserved that luck.”
Wolves go top
There was little luck involved in Wolfsburg's second, however. Arriving late to meet Sebastian Jung’s low cross, the Schürrle sent a fine finish past Akinfeev, making sure there was no doubt on this occasion whose name would be in the scorebook.
With Manchester United FC, Wolfsburg’s next opponents, drawing 0-0 on home turf with PSV Eindhoven in the group’s other game, Schürrle’s performance helped lift the Wolves into top spot. “We’re now much, much closer to one of our major aims for the season: to be in the Champions League in the new year," concluded his coach Dieter Hecking