If only the heavens had not opened, Wolfsburg might already be safe from relegation.
Having pulled level at 1-1 against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 33, Wolfsburg could sense survival as they pushed for a second goal. That was until their momentum was derailed by an unwelcome intervention from the skies that felt like a metaphor for what has been a stormy season for the Lower Saxons.
“The thunderstorm was in keeping with our season,” lamented Germany striker Mario Gomez at full time. “We were in the ascendancy and about to make it 2-1, and then we had to go off again. Then you hear the other results and you think you’ve done enough, but then you hear Hamburg have scored…”
Watch: Highlights of Wolfsburg's 1-1 draw with Gladbach
As is tradition in the Bundesliga, the final two rounds of games see all nine matches kick off simultaneously, so while the Wolves entertained Borussia, their fellow relegation battlers Hamburg were in action at Schalke. At half time, Wolfsburg were aware HSV were 1-0 down, and the message was clear: win the game and they could likely guarantee their survival here and now.
Gomez’s 16th goal of an excellent season on a personal level - and also won the Goal of the Week vote - had hauled Wolfsburg back into contention, before they were halted in their tracks by factors beyond their control. To make things worse, over in Gelsenkirchen, Pierre-Michel Lasogga had equalised in added time for Hamburg, with Schalke even having a goal disallowed in the final act of the match. But for Lasogga’s strike, Wolfsburg would now be safe.
It was an afternoon that seemed to perfectly fit the narrative of what has been a trying campaign for the Volkswagen Arena club. Last season, Wolfsburg reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League; this term, Andries Jonker is their third full-time coach and they have won just ten of 33 matches, scoring only 33 goals.
So where does it leave Gomez and Co. now? Well, fittingly enough, they face a final-day trip to – you guessed it – Hamburg in a mouth-watering, winner-stays-up contest on Saturday. The stakes could not be any higher: avoid defeat at HSV and Wolfsburg will survive; lose and they must battle it out against the third-placed side from Bundesliga 2 for their spot in the top flight next season - potentially against local rivals Eintracht Braunschweig.
Having been champions of Germany as recently as 2009, to be fighting relegation leaves Wolfsburg in unfamiliar territory. Hamburg, meanwhile, have survived the play-off in two of the last three seasons.
Nevertheless, Gomez confidently predicts calmer waters and clearer skies for the club when the final ball is kicked on Matchday 34, and he sounded a supremely confident note when asked for his views on the R-word. “I’ve not even asked myself the question. There’s no way we’re getting relegated,” he said firmly. “But things are getting tense.”
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