The damage was largely done in the first half through goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Marek Hamsik, but second-half strikes from Hamsik and Manolo Gabbiadini made sure Nicklas Bendtner’s effort was little more than a consolation and left the Lower Saxons in need of a miracle in next week’s return leg in Naples.
Dieter Hecking’s side were up against many observers’ favourites for this year’s Europa League title, and it wasn’t long before Napoli showed what quality opposition they were. With Naldo dragged out of position, Dries Mertens drilled a ball over the top for Higuain to collect on his chest and fire past Diego Benaglio with 15 minutes gone.
Playing with a spring in their step, Napoli then pressed home their advantage just eight minutes later, as Higuain threaded a brilliant pass into the path of Hamsik for the Slovakian to sweep home a second. Wolfsburg improved towards the end of the half, with Andre Schürrle striking the crossbar with a rising drive, but they had it all to do as the teams went in at the break.
The Wolves needed to score the next goal to have any chance of salvaging the game, but the tie itself was almost done and dusted within minutes of the restart, as Higuain was denied brilliantly by Benaglio. Napoli's third strike soon followed, however, as Hamsik finished from close range after a stray pass from Josuha Guilavogui, and things got worse for the Wolves when Gabbiadini headed home a fourth.
Only substitute Bendtner offered a reply with a goal from Ivan Perisic’s cross, but it came as scant consolation in Wolfsburg’s heaviest ever home defeat in European competition, leaving them with a mountain to climb ahead of the second leg.
Wolfsburg: Benaglio - Vieirinha, Naldo, Knoche, Rodriguez - Guilavogui (Arnold, 70’), Gustavo - Caligiuri, De Bruyne, Schürrle (Perisic, 64’) - Dost (Bendtner, 57’)
Napoli: Andujar - Maggio, Raul Albiol, Britos, Ghoulam David Lopez, Inler - Callejon, Hamsik (Gabbiadini, 75’), Mertens (Insigne, 60’) - Higuain (Henrique, 86')
Goals: 0-1 Higuain (15’), 0-2 Hamsik (23’), 0-3 Hamsik (64’), 0-4 Gabbiadini (76’), 1-4 Bendtner (80’)