In-form Wout Weghorst took his tally to five goals in four games to keep Wolfsburg on track for a top-six finish and a place in next season's UEFA Europa League group stage with a 4-1 win at troubled Schalke on Saturday.
Wolfsburg had failed to win in Gelsenkirchen on their last nine visits, and had only triumphed against Schalke once in their last nine competitive meetings. But a winless run of 14 league matches has wounded the hosts, and the Wolves – with UEFA Europa League qualifying ambitions in mind – sensed blood. Daniel Ginczek blasted wastefully over and Josip Brekalo had a goalbound curler ricochet to safety off Weston McKennie before Ginczek made a nuisance of himself in the Schalke penalty area and Weghorst lunged to guide in his 15th league goal of the campaign. Wolfsburg's hold on sixth place was reduced to goal difference with Hoffenheim winning last time out while Oliver Glasner's men were beaten at Mönchengladbach, so they had no wiggle room when they arrived at the Veltins-Arena. Schalke, though, were unable to do anything to unnerve their guests. They might have from a corner in the last minute before the break, but when McKennie's low shot came through a penalty box crowd, Koen Casteels moved smartly to smother.
That was good from the Belgium international; his point-blank stop from ex-Wolfsburg man Daniel Caligiuri less than 10 minutes into the second half was utterly superb, and proved the turning point. When the opportunity for Schalke – brilliantly created by a weaving run from McKennie – went begging, Renato Steffen played Weghorst in behind the home backline. The Netherlands international was never going to be as generous. Kevin Mbabu was equally merciless when a Ginczek shot rebounded to him off a post after Schalke had been wrongfooted by a well-crafted free-kick routine. Rabbi Matondo's almost instant reply to Victor's fourth for the visitors was little more than a footnote. Wolfsburg head into their final game at home to champions Bayern Munich knowing their European destiny is in their hands, with sixth place enough to earn a place in the Europa League group stage and seventh a spot in the qualifying rounds.
- Wolfsburg top scorer Weghorst made his Bundesliga debut against Schalke, but this was the first time he'd scored against them in four attempts.
- Weghorst, who netted 17 in 2018/19, is only the second Dutchman to score at least 15 times in his first two Bundesliga seasons – the first was Bayern Munich's Roy Makaay.
- Mbabu scored his third league goal of the season, but his first away from home in the Bundesliga. He has now scored twice against Schalke.
- Matondo's goal – his second of the season and his first at home – was only Schalke's eighth league strike since the turn of the year.
- This was Wolfsburg's first victory at Schalke in ten attempts. They had lost on eight of their previous nine trips to the Veltins Arena since getting all three points in September 2009.
- There has not been a goalless draw in the last 31 competitive fixtures between the two sides.
Watch: Weghorst: "I'm growing as a player"
Schalke: Nübel - Kenny (Becker 46'), Kabak, Oczipka, Miranda (Thiaw 69') - Caligiuri (c), McKennie, Schöpf, Mercan (Raman 46') - Gregoritsch (Kutucu 65'), Matondo
Unused subs: Schubert, Langer, Boujellab, Hofmann
Out: Burgstaller (knee), Bozdogan (suspended), Harit (knee), Mascarell (groin), Sane (muscular), Serdar (knee), Todibo (ankle), Nastasic (muscular), Stambouli (match fitness)
Coach: David Wagner
Wolfsburg: Casteels (c) - Mbabu, Pongracic, Brooks, Roussillon - Steffen (Victor 67'), Schlager (Gerhardt 76'), Arnold, Brekalo - Weghorst, Ginczek (Marmoush 83')
Unused subs: Pervan, Klaus, Horn, Knoche, Tisserand, Justvan
Out: Guilavogui (suspended), Mehmedi (Achilles tendon), Otavio (ankle), William (knee), Camacho (ankle)
Coach: Oliver Glasner