Wolfsburg – VfL Wolfsburg missed out on UEFA Champions League qualification despite a 3-1 victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach, who will join the Wolves in the UEFA Europa League next season.
Wolves find their bite
Goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Ivan Perisic either side of Max Kruse’s equaliser gave Wolfsburg a 2-1 lead at half-time. Robin Knoche sealed all three points with a late header, but Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s win against SV Werder Bremen means the Wolves miss out on qualification for Europe’s premier club competition.
Dieter Hecking’s side started on the front foot in Lower Saxony, with Perisic testing outgoing Foals keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen inside the opening minutes with a piledriver from 30 yards. The Croatian was proving a thorn in Gladbach’s side early on and nearly found his international colleague Ivica Olic with a fierce cross after 15 minutes that ter Stegen did well to cling on to.
The Wolves were nearly masters of their own downfall soon after, however, with Knoche playing a careless ball straight into the path of the onrushing Christoph Kramer inside his own half. The Foals were momentarily three-on-two, but Kramer’s poor touch allowed Knoche to atone for his error before the 23-year-old could release the unmarked Kruse.
De Bruyne strikes
Wolfsburg continued to do most of the pressing as the half wore on and ter Stegen was forced to stretch to tip Olic’s goal-bound header over the crossbar just before the half-hour mark. The breakthrough finally came when Robin Knoche released De Bruyne with a pin-point through-ball from inside the Wolfsburg half, the Belgium international keeping his composure to fire past ter Stegen and give the hosts a deserved lead.
Both sides went close to scoring before the break, with Perisic firing a free-kick against the crossbar before Diego Benaglio got down well to save at the feet of Kruse at the other end. The Croatian went perilously close to doubling the Wolves’ advantage eight minutes into the second half when his close-range effort hit the post, ricocheted off the underside of the crossbar and onto other post with ter Stegen beaten.
Two goals in quick succession
Gladbach were level 20 minutes into the second half when Kruse sidefooted Raffael’s outswinging cross into the back of the net from close range, but Hecking’s charges soon restored their advantage when ter Stegen let a Wolfsburg free-kick slip out of his grasp. The 21-year-old was out quickly to deny Olic on the follow up, but Perisic was on hand to send a looping header over the Foals’ stopper to put Wolfsburg 2-1 up.
Knoche headed home Ricardo Rodriguez’s corner with eight minutes remaining to put the result beyond all doubt, but Leverkusen’s 2-1 victory over Bremen at the BayArena means the die Werkself clinched the fourth and final Champions League spot, with both the Wolves and the Foals having to settle for the Europa League.
Line-ups and statistics
Check out Perisic's astonishing shot that hit the bar and both posts before being cleared, courtesy of the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel: