Josip Brekalo scored his first-ever Bundesliga hat-trick as Wolfsburg took another step towards sealing a top-four finish with a 3-0 win at home to Union Berlin.
After the chastening 2-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 31, Wolfsburg began with the fury of a side determined to make amends - not least to maintain their push for UEFA Champions League qualification. Union have been one of the toughest sides to break down this season, but they had no answer to the Wolves' intensity and movement. Xaver Schlager set the tone with a rasping shot inside three minutes that Andreas Luthe did well to thwart, but the visiting goalkeeper was powerless to keep out Brekalo's effort on 12 minutes when he curled a stunning shot into the top corner from 25 yards. Wout Weghorst had a chance to add to his 20 goals this term after being played through by Maximilian Philipp, but the Dutchman could only find the side netting. Philipp himself went close shortly afterwards, brilliantly controlling the ball on his chest before shooting on the turn from 12 yards, only to see Luthe make another smart stop. The only surprise after a one-sided first half in which the hosts had 65 per cent of possession and nine shots to Union's three was that they only led 1-0 at the interval.
The visitors put up more resistance in the second period and Joel Pohjanpalo even hit the post on a rare Union attack that caught Wolfsburg off guard momentarily, but they soon regained their composure. Luthe was called into action again to keep out a Ridle Baku shot that seemed destined for the bottom corner, while Maximilian Arnold arrowed a 30-yard free-kick narrowly over the crossbar. Oliver Glasner's side did eventually get the second goal their dominance deserved when Brekalo collected Baku's pass on the edge of the Union area, quickly getting a shot away that looped up off Christian Gentner's boot and over Luthe. The 22-year-old completed his hat-trick in the last minute, putting the seal on a well-deserved win by squeezing a shot past the Union goalkeeper from close range.
- Brekalo scored his fifth, sixth and seventh Bundesliga goals of the season, a new personal best for the Croatian. His last six goals have all come on home turf.
- The 22-year-old's first goal was Wolfsburg's 10th from distance this season. Only Bayern Munich, with 14, have found the net more often from range.
- It was also Brekalo's first-ever hat-trick in the Bundesliga.
- The last Wolfsburg player to score a treble was Weghorst in a 3-2 triumph over Hoffenheim on 15 February 2020.
- Wolfsburg top the league-wide charts for most sprints, with an average of 252 per game, but it’s Union who cover the most ground (74.56 miles per 90 minutes).
- Union are winless and without a clean sheet in their last six competitive meetings with Wolfsburg (D2, L3).
Watch: Brekalo: "It couldn't be better for me today"
Wolfsburg: Casteels (c) - Mbabu (Gerhardt 70'), Lacroix, Brooks, Otavio (Roussillon 90'+1) - Schlager, Arnold - Baku, Philipp (Guilavogui 82'), Brekalo (Victor 90'+1) - Weghorst
Unused subs: Pervan, Mehmedi, Ginczek, Pongracic, Siersleben
Out: Bialek (knee), Steffen (ankle)
Coach: Oliver Glasner
Union: Luthe - Friedrich, Knoche, Schlotterbeck (Bülter 69') - Trimmel (c) (Ryerson 75'), Gentner, Andrich, Lenz (Gießelmann 69') - Ingvartsen (Endo 46') - Musa (Kruse 68'), Pojhanpalo
Unused subs: Karius, Gogia, Griesbeck
Out: Awoniyi (thigh), Becker (ankle), Dajaku (foot), Teuchert (knee), Ujah (knee)
Coach: Urs Fischer
Watch: Casteels: "We know what we have to do to reach the Champions League"