Wolfsburg - FC Bayern München may have posted by the most eye-catching scoreline on Matchday 22 with their 6-0 thrashing of SC Paderborn, but there can be little doubt that VfL Wolfsburg were the biggest winners of the weekend.
The second-placed Wolves eventually managed to get the better of a stubborn Hertha Berlin side with a 2-1 victory on Sunday evening, extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to six games in 2015.
Yet the fact that they have now earned 13 of 15 possible points in the Bundesliga this calendar year was not the reason head coach Dieter Hecking talked of a “milestone” being passed after the final whistle. The 50-year-old was referring to his side’s overall progress as they pursue the aim of establishing themselves as a major competitor both domestically and on the European stage.
The high-profile signings of players of the calibre of and are testament to that objective, but on Sunday the sense that something significant is brewing at the Volkswagen Arena was tangible. With the Lower Saxony club sitting comfortably in second place, the eight sides immediately below them, all of whom have designs on European qualification, all dropped points prior to the Wolves’ encounter with Hertha.
No letting up
It would therefore have been no disaster if Hecking’s men hadn’t won - not that such thoughts are countenanced any longer. "In the second half my team showed their determination not to drop two points,” Hecking said, after Julian Schieber had cancelled out ’s opener to leave the match poised at 1-1 at the break. “If we slacken off our immediate opponents we'll be immediately back on our tails,” Hecking continued. “All of those teams possess quality and still have to play against most of them.”
Wolfsburg were not at their free-flowing best against Hertha, which makes their triumph all the more significant: the Auto City club showed they can outmuscle and outplay the best in the business with their 4-1 demolition of FC Bayern; they proved their fighting spirit in the 5-4 win over Bayer 04 Leverkusen; their ability to play a disciplined, results-based game in the 2-0 UEFA Europa League win over Sporting Clube de Portugal and now, against Hertha, outlined that they have what it takes to grind out a victory also against defensive opposition.
Wolfsburg now boast a ten-point advantage over third-placed Gladbach, although sporting director Klaus Allofs was quick to point out that “you don’t qualify for the Champions League with 47 points.” Maybe not, but Dost, Schürrle and Co. indicated that the Wolves do have the necessary quality to reach Europe's top table for a second time since winning the Bundesliga in 2009.
"We believed we would win and we did,” said Dost, while Schürrle expanded further: “It was a hard-fought game and we had to dig deep. We had a lot of possession, waited for our chances and […] finally managed to score. It’s an unbelievably important win.” Roll on the next chapter in the Wolfsburg success story.