Julian Draxler’s two superb goals were the difference, as VfL Wolfsburg traveled to Gent in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League and came away with a 3-2 victory, after a late scare from the home side.
Wolfsburg were coming into the game with a depleted squad (missing Guilavogui, Caligiuri, Dost and goalkeeper Diego Benaglio) plus Naldo’s suspension meant that impressive youngster Robin Knoche was partnering Dante in the center of defense. Gent, the first Belgian side in 15 years to make an appearance in the UCL sweet 16, have never beaten a German side at home in European competition.
In a first half dominated by terrible shooting accuracy and not much else, Julian Draxler finally flashed a moment of magic on 44 minutes. The 22-year-old playmaker juked his defender wide on the left side near midfield, then got a great return ball from Vieirinha that he slotted home to put die Wölfe ahead 1-0.
In the 53rd minute Draxler again showed his class by winning the ball back, skinning the Gent defender Mitrovic and finishing with a Messiesque chip for 2-0.
Max Kruse made it three after a great ball from Christian Trasch on 60 minutes.
Man of the Match
Julian Draxler – oozed class this evening, as he skipped past defenders with ease and had two cool calm and collected finishes in perhaps his best performance of his season. His two goals and his confidence on the ball must have been a welcome sight for Wolfsburg fans in desperate need of a leader for a team that has been underperforming this season.
- Good: 2 shots on target and 2 goals for Julian Draxler, whose 4 shots also led all players.
- Bad: Losing the possession battle 45-55% to Gent and giving up 7 shots in last 20 minutes.
- Inability to get a result on home soil is an absolute no-no in a knockout format, and Gent failed in this aspect, furious comeback notwithstanding.
- Sven Kums had 127 touches plus the consolation goal that Koen Casteels should probably have saved. An impressive display from the 27-year-old center midfielder.
- The Belgians were always second best in quality, but allowed an out of form Wolfsburg to score at the end of the first half, and really beat themselves by giving the ball away prior to the second goal. They seemed to have thrown all caution to the wind and attack desperately and were able to pick up 2 goals to salvage some hope for the return leg.
- A welcome return to form for die Wölfe, and a 3-2 win away from home should still see them progress to the next round after a nervous first half and frantic last 15 minutes.
- Draxler über alles. The former Schalke talisman was simply in a class by himself, with 89% passing and 2 special goals. Supporting actors also stepped up for VfL, as Trasch (3), Max Arnold (4) and Max Kruse all had more than 2 key passes and contributed to all 3 goals.
- Inability to close it out remains a huge problem, as this game appeared all done and dusted at 3-0. VfL had a 15 to 5 shots advantage but managed to concede 7 shots in the last 20 minutes and put themselves in a pickle for the return match. A team with Wolfsburg’s pedigree simply must shut these kind of games down versus an opponent of Gent’s rather mediocre quality. Dante and goalkeeper Koen Casteels were particularly at fault for conceding two goals to a desperate side.
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