bundesliga

Josip Brekalo lifts Wolfsburg into top four with win over VfB Stuttgart

Josip Brekalo fired Wolfsburg into the top four over the winter break with a second-half free-kick to earn a 1-0 win at home to VfB Stuttgart.

Wolfsburg 1-0 VfB Stuttgart
Goals: 1-0 Brekalo (49')

Wolfsburg may have been deprived of a number of first-team regulars for this game, but they began determined to make the most of the chance to leapfrog Borussia Dortmund in the league standings. Maxence Lacroix header over from a corner in just the second minute as the Wolves sent out an early message of their intent, and Yannick Gerhardt hit the post with a header on the rebound after Gregor Kobel had saved his initial shot. The Wolfsburg midfielder even had the ball in the net on the half-hour mark, but it was ruled out for a foul in the build-up. While the hosts were the better team in the first 45 minutes, Stuttgart always looked dangerous on the break and went closest to scoring when Silas Wamangituka collected Daniel Didavi’s through-ball into the box, but his shot rolled just wide of the far post.

That would prove to be a costly miss, as the Wolves edged ahead early in the second half. Waldemar Anton fouled Brekalo on the edge of the Stuttgart penalty area, and the Croatia international dusted himself off to convert the ensuing free-kick – albeit via two deflections – and put the hosts in front. The visitors struggled to break down a well-drilled Wolfsburg rearguard as they tried to muster a response, but they should have equalised on 70 minutes when Roberto Massimo teed up Gonzalez for what looked to be a simple tap-in from close range, but the Argentinian miscued his shot and Wolfsburg were able to clear. Sasa Kalajdzic then had a shot blocked my Maxence Lacroix in the closing stages, as Wolfsburg held on for their sixth win of the season, bringing them to within four points of third-placed RB Leipzig.

Match stats

  • Gerhardt made his 100th Bundesliga appearance for Wolfsburg.
  • Bartosz Bialek made his first top-flight start for the Wolves, following five previous outings as a substitute.
  • VfB captain Gonzalo Castro was on the bench for the first time this season.
  • Mateo Klimowicz’s father Diego scored 57 goals in 149 Bundesliga outings for Wolfsburg between 2001 and 2007.
  • Wolfsburg have now scored from more direct free-kicks (three) than any other Bundesliga team this season.
  • The goal was Brekalo's second in 2020/21; his first was also a deflected free-kick.

Watch: Weghorst: "We're on a really good path"

Line-ups

Wolfsburg: Casteels (c) - Baku (Victor 87'), Pongracic (Brooks 73'), Lacroix, Otavio - Guilavogui, Gerhardt - Steffen, Bialek (Ginczek 73'), Brekalo (Mbabu 60') - Weghorst
Unused subs: Pervan, Malli, Marmoush
Out: Arnold (not included), Malli (back), Mehmedi (Achilles tendon), Philipp (not included), Roussillon (not included), Schlager (not included), Siersleben (not included), William (not included)
Coach: Oliver Glasner

Stuttgart: Kobel - Anton, Stenzel (Kalajdzic 73'), Kempf - Silas (Klimowicz 60'), Endo, Mangala, Sosa - Didavi, Coulibaly (Massimo 61') - Gonzalez
Unused subs: Bredlow, Mavropanos, Kaminski, Castro, Förster, Klement
Out: Al Ghaddioui (pelvis), Cisse (groin), Karazor (knee), Thommy (elbow)
Coach: Pellegrino Matarazzo

Watch: Guilavogui: "We have to keep playing our way"