Wolfsburg ensured that they will play in a 21st consecutive Bundesliga season after completing a 2-0 aggregate victory over neighbours Eintracht Braunschweig in the relegation play-off on Monday night.
Eintracht Braunschweig 0-1 Wolfsburg (agg: 0-2)
Goals: 0-1 Vieirinha (49')
Red card: Sauer (82')
The Lions looked determined to show their teeth and made much the brighter start at the Eintracht-Stadion, although Christoffer Nyman's early effort lacked bite and was comfortably gathered by Koen Casteels. A casual observer would never have guessed that Wolfsburg's 20-year Bundesliga status was on the line, and the visitors finally deigned to have a first real attempt on goal in the 34th minute, as Yannick Gerhardt forced Jasmin Fejzic into palming the ball behind for a corner. Braunschweig captain Ken Reichel then had a golden chance to put the hosts ahead after being played in by Nyman, but ballooned his effort over the bar as the local rivals went in goalless at the break.
The key moment arrived four minutes after the interval, as Yunus Malli forced a good stop from Fejzic and Vieirinha made the most of the keeper being out of position to thunder home the purest of strikes on the rebound. Wolfsburg had their all-important away goal and it took all the wind out of Braunschweig's sails, as they barely threatened for the rest of the game. The visitors went from strength to strength and had various chances to add gloss to the scoreline, with Malli going close and Luiz Gustavo contriving to fire over with the goal gaping. The Wolves held on and will be back for another Bundesliga season in 2017/18, while the Lions - who had Maximilian Sauer dismissed late on - will be left to wonder what might have been.
Man of the Match
Who else but Vieirinha? The Portuguese midfielder was already one of Wolfsburg's livelier performers in a poor first half - setting up Gerhardt for his attempt - before his vital away goal completely changed the complexion of the tie. It was a tremendous hit and worthy of keeping the Wolves in the Bundesliga for another season.
Monday will be a night of celebrations in Wolfsburg but serious questions have to be asked about how the 2009 Bundesliga champions found themselves at risk of slipping into the second tier. The Wolves were second best at the Eintracht-Stadion until Vieirinha's goal, and it could have been a very different story if Reichel had converted his chance on the stroke of half-time. The Wolves have averted disaster, but they are set for some soul-searching this summer as they look for a vast improvement in 2017/18.
- The Bundesliga side have now maintained their top-flight status seven out of nine times since the play-off was reintroduced in 2009.
- Vieirinha scored his first competitive goal for Wolfsburg in 538 days, since netting against Manchester United in December 2015.
- The Wolves scored just 20 goals in 18 games on their Bundesliga travels in 2016/17.
Eintracht Braunschweig: Fejzic – Sauer, Decarli, Valsvik, Reichel (c) – Omladic, Schönfeld (Abdullahi 58'), Boland, Hochscheidt (Hernandez 58') – Nyman, Khelifi (Tietz 79')
Coach: Torsten Lieberknecht
Wolfsburg: Casteels – Träsch, Wollscheid, Knoche, Gerhardt – Luiz Gustavo (c), Guilavogui – Didavi (Arnold 78'), Malli, Vieirinha (Dejagah 68') – Gomez
Coach: Andries Jonker
Watch: Mario Gomez "incredibly pleased" after helping Wolves secure survival