Wolfsburg - VfL Wolfsburg’s new Chinese international Xizhe Zhang watched on at the Volkswagen Arena as his new team-mates lost ground at the top of the league after a 1-1 draw with SC Paderborn 07.
De Bruyne leads the charge
Zhang’s goalscoring abilities could have come in handy for Dieter Hecking’s side, who, despite an early Rafa Lopez own goal, struggled to put the game to bed. Ivan Perisic had a penalty saved in the the 29th minute, before Alban Meha leveled from the spot shortly after the restart, leaving the Wolves nine points behind FC Bayern München.
After UEFA Europa League qualification in midweek, Wolfsburg coach Hecking opted for Maximilian Arnold alongside Luiz Gustavo in midfield, and the German U-21 international’s passing abilities allowed his side to dominate the opening exchanges. After Jens Wemmer spurned Paderborn’s only attack of the half early on, Arnold and Kevin de Bruyne began asserting their control.
The Belgian teed up Bas Dost inside the box in the 15th minute, whose dinked effort made it easy for Lukas Kruse. Two minutes later, however, the hosts’ dominance was sealed when Vieirinha’s header was helped over the line by Lopez. The opener encouraged the Wolves to maintain their high-octane start, as Arnold went close with 25th-minute free kick, but spurned their best chance to extend their lead a minute before the half-hour mark
Dost was fouled inside the box by Christian Strohdiek and, with Ricardo Rodriguez missing, Perisic’s low penalty was parried away by Kruse. Instead of the save offering a muted Paderborn a route back into the game, it brought improvement from Hecking’s men. De Bruyne came within inches of finding the back of the net from the edge of the box, while Dost’s finish a minute before the break was disallowed.
The introduction of former Wolfsburg striker Stefan Kutschke gave Paderborn new impetus, and within six minutes of the restart, the visitors were level. Naldo brought down Strohdiek in the box and Meha hammered home from the spot, becoming the first man to score at the Volkswagen Arena since Matchday 6. Intent on making the most of their second-half chances, Wolfsburg went up the other end where Dost twice should have restored the lead.
Although on top, Wolfsburg were struggling to exert their first-half control against a resurgent Paderborn. Kruse brilliantly denied Arnold from close range after Dost again failed with a header, while it was clear the Paderborn goal was living a charmed life when de Bruyne curled wide in the 67th minute. Kutschke fired an isolated chance wide for his side before Aaron Hunt entered the fray as the Wolves’ attempts to find a winner became increasingly ragged.
A Gustavo cross was cleared off the line with ten minutes remaining, while Naldo’s headers from the resultant corners were repelled. Marvin Bakalorz could have nicked it five minutes from time, while Nicklas Bendtner and Gustavo squandered the Wolves' final chances to stay hot on the heels of league leaders FC Bayern.
Line-ups and statistics