‘Hecking Raus!’ (Hecking Out!) chants could be heard loud and clear after the full-time whistle Sunday at the Volkswagen Arena. Boos greeted the crestfallen Wolfsburg players as they walked nervously over toward the enraged Nordkurve. The fans have lost patience with their club’s performance, but would the higher powers follow suit or show a bit more patience with Hecking, who did bring Wolfsburg its first trophy (the 2014/2015 DFB Pokal) since the club won the Bundesliga back in May, 2009.
The fans didn’t have to wait long for a response. Hecking’s firing was announced Monday, with Wolfsburg’s U23 Coach Valerien Ismael taking the reins of the VfL senior squad on an interim basis. Wolfsburg Sporting Director Klaus Allofs commented
Despite great matches in the Champions League, we failed to qualify for an international competition last season. And the reshuffle of the squad has not produced the results we were hoping for .After the latest disappointing performances, we decided to give the team a new impulse by changing the coach
Struggling for goals, sloppy defensive mistakes and players not demonstrating their true potential — you don’t have to be a genius to work out why Wolfsburg’s season has been so catastrophic. A game against ‘bang in form’ RB Leipzig, Germany’s most despised football team, was not the ideal way for Wolfsburg to attempt a turnaround in fortune, but evidence of a turnaround was minimal and Wolfsburg looked as pointless and as weak as ever. Their passing was frequently off point and every players’ first touch seemed to bounce five metres in front of them, most evident when goalkeeper Koen Casteels gave away a penalty after allowing the ball to get away from him. Wolfsburg were simply a shambles and the final result was deserved, as much as it pains me to praise RB Leipzig.
Despite the aforementioned negativity on Wolfsburg’s performance, the early stages of Sunday’s fixture weren’t too bad for the Wolves. An early test for RB Leipzig keeper and former Liverpool man, Peter Gulasci parrying a powerful shot from Julian Draxler in the third minute followed soon after with a right footed volley by Mario Gomez inside the area that went harmlessly wide of the goal.
The next action came in the 17th minute when Casteels’ horrendous first touch allowed Timo Werner to beat him to the loose ball and force the panicking Casteels to give away a penalty, receiving a yellow card in the process. The keeper’s error was unpunished however. Emil Forsberg’s penalty attempt can only be described as disastrous, dragging the ball at least a metre wide of the left side post.
The second half saw RB Leipzig take more control, dominating for long periods and threatening to score that dreaded goal Wolfsburg fans seemed to know was coming. And they were right. 70th minute and Forsberg gets his revenge. A wonderful goal from the Swede, cutting in from the left and unleashing a powerfully curling effort with his right foot from outside the area that breezed past a desperate Casteels. It was the inevitable goal Wolfsburg were bound to concede and it was deserved.
Some tame efforts late on were all Wolfsburg had left. A weak volley from youngster Josip Brekalo and an embarrassing dive by Borja Mayoral would be just about it for a deflated Wolfsburg side. RB Leipzig, meanwhile, had chances to increase their lead over the home side too. Timo Werner’s low driven cross was just too far ahead of an incoming Poulsen and Oliver Burke, who had joined the game from the substitutes bench, found himself through on goal, but had his effort saved by a livid Casteels.
The full-time whistle sounded and Wolfsburg’s humiliating start to the season continues. Dieter Hecking would not know it yet, but he would have just managed his last game for the club. And now Wolfsburg start all over again.
Since being hired by Wolfsburg in December, 2012 from 1.FC Nürnberg, Hecking led the club to 81 wins, 39 draws and 43 losses. The 52 year-old former midfielder began his coaching career with SC Verl in 2000 and also coached in Lubeck, Aachen and Hannover before joining Der Club in 2009. His temporary replacement, Valerien Ismael, is a 41 year-old native of Strasbourg who played professionally in France, England and in Germany for Werder Bremen, Bayern Munich and Hannover and won French Cups and two Bundesliga titles along with three Pokal crowns. Ismael began coaching Hannover’s reserves in 2011 before having a great run coaching Wolfsburg’s reserves during the 2013/2014 campaign, fashioning a 23-6-7 mark that led to his hiring as Nürnberg’s head coach in June, 2014. The Frenchman only made it to mid-November with Der Club, however, following a start that saw the Bavarian side earn only 14 points in its first 14 matches, and he returned to working with Wolfsburg’s U23s afterwards.
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