Gdansk - Bundesliga World Tour 2015 participants VfL Wolfsburg didn't have time for sightseeing in Gdansk. While the city's beautiful old town is a tourist hub, the Wolves were in Poland's sixth-largest city strictly on business.
Indeed, business was brisk and the Wolves were dominant until the 80th minute of the clash with local first-division outfit KS Lechia Gdansk, before Mario Maloca cancelled out Aaron Hunt's first-half opener to secure a 1-1 draw for the hosts. While it was a disappointing result for a Wolfsburg side which became so accustomed to success last season, the frustration was tinged with a certain realism.
"It's true we had a lot of chances and only scored one goal," explained veteran centre-half Naldo post-match. "But we did alright. We've only been in training for two weeks and they start their season soon. Of course, I always want to win, but today that didn't happen. We're still on the right track."
Integration the aim
Dieter Hecking echoed his stand-in captain's pragmatism. "We've been working hard and we've laid some good foundations," the coach explained. "We've integrated the new boys which is the most important thing at the moment."
One new boy, Max Kruse, recently arrived from Borussia Mönchengladbach, and who was a constant thorn in the Gdansk side after his entrance at half time, was less generous with his post-match assessment. "We wanted more really," he said. "We were a goal to the good and moving the ball around nicely. We shouldn't have conceded so we'll have to work hard in training."
Demonstrating a ruthless winning mentality which will serve him well in Lower Saxony, Kruse focused on the negatives of the Wolves' display. There were, however, plenty of positives on show for those of a Green-White persuasion, such as the performance of Kruse himself. "I've been very well received [by the squad]," he explained. "I've already had a good chat with the coach which reinforced my early positive impressions."
Hunter becomes hunted
Kruse almost made a dream start. Chasing in behind, the 27-year-old supplied a cutback pass for Oskar Zawada who merely had to hit the target to score a late winner. The young Pole contrived to shoot wide, yet with Kevin De Bruyne, Ivan Perisic and Andre Schürrle back in training, it is likely that future opportunities Kruse creates will be gobbled up.
The trio will, however, have to follow Kruse's example and hit the ground running in 2015/16. After all, it is set to be an era-defining campaign for Wolfsburg: last season's performances have endowed the club with the mantle of Bayern's primary pursuer at the top of the league, while they will embark on a first UEFA Champions League adventure since 2009.
First up for the reigning DFB Cup winners when they return to competitive action will be the Supercup on August 1 against FC Bayern. The Wolves are no longer the hunters, but are now the hunted. "Other teams will definitely be looking at us now and trying to stop us playing," explained Kruse. "But I hope that we can have a major say again this season."