The hosts dominated the first half after Niko Bungert headed a seventh-minute opener, with Johannes Geis' free kick, which rattled the bar, an indication of their dominance. Wolfsburg improved in the second period, however, and Gustavo followed up hitting the post on the hour with his first goal of the season to secure a share of the spoils.
Mainz’s fast start
A Wolfsburg side boasting six changes from Thursday’s 2-1 win in Milan were caught cold by the hosts’ early aggression. Geis shot over from distance, while the Wolves’ sluggishness was underlined when Gustavo’s backpass was picked up by Diego Benaglio. Although the indirect free-kick was repelled, an unmarked Bungert rose highest from the resultant corner and powered home a header for his first goal in almost a year.
Mainz continued to press after the opener, with Shinji Okazaki a perennial menace, and although Wolfsburg started to see more of the ball, there was little threat to their possession. Former Mainz star Andre Schürrle put his side’s first shot wide in the 19th minute, but it was an isolated effort from a team otherwise lacking its customary high tempo. Indeed, with animated coach Martin Schmidt urging them on, the hosts upped the ante, with the influential Geis rattling the bar with a free kick in the 29th minute.
Wolves bite back
Kevin De Bruyne stung Loris Karius’ palms shortly afterwards in response, and though the Belgian was more involved as half-time approached, Mainz remained in control. Timm Klose had to produce some calm defending to deny Yunus Malli from close range, while Okazaki’s clever finish was ruled out for offside in the 40th minute. De Bruyne saw another effort saved by Karius in the closing stages, but it was the hosts who deservedly went in ahead.
In an effort to quicken his side’s tempo, Dieter Hecking introduced Vieirinha and Ivan Perisic at the start of the second half, and the substitutions forced Maximilian Arnold deeper, from where he and Gustavo began to dictate proceedings. Both Schürrle and De Bruyne came close before the hour mark, and the visitors’ pressure increased when Gustavo’s long-range effort crashed against the post.
Gustavo to the fore
Wolfsburg found a merited equaliser from the resultant corner, as Naldo flicked on De Bruyne’s inswinger and Gustavo was waiting at the back post to help it home for his first goal of the season. Mainz responded by hunting a winner, turning the game into an end-to-end affair. Goalscorer Bungert’s acrobatic volley was blocked and Malli fired over after De Bruyne had forced another good save from Karius.
Mainz were on top in the final ten minutes, but with neither side willing to risk defeat, the game lost its earlier intensity. Geis’ set-pieces remained a threat, while Okazaki came within inches of securing three points in the 86th minute, but otherwise, chances were at a premium. The hosts pushed, but it wasn’t to be, as Wolfsburg stayed strong to secure a draw.
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