VfB Stuttgart 0-1 Vfl Wolfsburg: 90 minutes of dull football

Both Bruno Labbadia and Felix Magath can’t be happy about their team’s performances.

Tonight’s clash between Stuttgart and Wolfsburg promised to be a match full of goal mouth action, going by the recent history of the matches between the two sides. The last five matches had produced 20 goals, or four goals on average. The Wolves hadn’t won a single away game since their 5-2 in 2000.

Both Stuttgart and Wolfsburg are at the start of the season considered to be candidates for a place amongst the top four teams in the Bundesliga. Last season saw Stuttgart sneak into the European places after an excellent display in the second half of the season. The Swabians went into to tonight’s match having been undefeated in their last seven matches at home (six win and one draw). Wolfsburg did struggle away from home last season, only taking 12 points out of their 17 matches outside of the Volkswagen-Arena.

Tactics and line up: Labbadia and Magath cancel each other out

Felix Magath’s addiction to shopping has in recent years been more over the top than anything the writers of Gossip Girl could come up with. The hard hound decided to start the match with not fewer than six new signings. Diego, Naldo, Emanuel Pogatetz, Bas Bost, Ivica Olic and Fagner all got the nod. 20-year-old Robin Koche played his first Bundesliga match from start in his fifth appearance for The Wolves. Bruno Labbadia’s personal changes were rather minor compared to Magath’s overhaul. The former striker chose to start the new signing Tim Hoogland on right back, in addition to giving Ibrahima Traoré the nod instead of Shinji Okazaki.

Both teams chose to approach the match in 4-2-3-1 formation. Wolfsburg’s formation was more flexible than Stuttgart’s though. Magath had ordered his team to vary their pressing through out the match. In essence Wolfsburg had used at times three men high up the pitch to disturb Stuttgart’s build up, making their system a hybrid of the 4-2-3-1 formation and a 4-3-3.

Labbadia had ordered Harnik to move towards the centre during the attacking moves, asking Hoogland to fill up the space the Austrian left empty on the right hand side. William Kvist stayed behind during Stuttgart’s attack, tidying up at the back whilst Harnik and Hoogland made their way back to their initial positions.

First half: Wolfsburg produce the better chances

The game got off to a promising start when Askhan Dejagah found Bas Dost with a cross in the second minute, The Dutch striker’s header was blocked by Maza. Wolfsburg kept on pressing high on the pitch, putting Stuttgart into trouble every now and then. It was Dejagah again who initiated the next promising attack: The Iranian found Diego at the far post with a cross from the right hand side. Diego headed the ball back towards the goal, were Maza and Sven Ulreich fumbled the clearance. The ball dropped to Dejagah’s feet, but the former German under 21 international missed the goal with his volley from 7 meters.

9 minutes later William Kvist managed to snap up Wolfsburg’s clearance after  a Stuttgart free kick, and brought the ball back into the box. Maza headed the goal into the net with an exquisite header from 14 meters. Referee’s Tobias Welz’s assistant put up his flag signaling that Maza had been offside, but the replay showed that the Mexican had stayed onside by a very small margin.

The last chance of the first half came again after a cross from Dejagah who found Olic four meters in front of the goal, but the Croatian international’s header missed the target.

Wolfsburg’s Bas Dost managed to get the ball past Ulreich in the 45th minute, but referee Welz annulled the goal because Dost had fouled Sedar Tasci during the build up of the goal.

Second half: Three dramatic minutes

Stuttgart’s coach Labbadia chose to change things around at the beginning of the second half. The ineffective Tamas Hajnal was replaced by the new signing Tunay Torun. The former Hertha and HSV player slipped right into Hajnal spot behind the Ibisevic. Torun energized Stuttgart’s display at the beginning of the second half, being more mobile than Hajnal in the first.

The addition of Torun didn’t produce any clear cut chances though. Labbadia’s second swap of the night, bringing on Cacau for the rather bleak Traoré interjected the match with some much-needed pace. The former German international linked up well with Torun, constantly swapping positions with Stuttgart’s new signing. As a result of that collaboration Cacau managed to get a shot on goal from 22 meters in the 73rd minute, which forced Diego Benaglio to a brilliant save.

Wolfsburg’s playmaker Diego got a shot on goal from 15 meters in the 82nd minute, but Sven Ulreich was alert and kept the Brazilian’s shot out. Diego had been the most active player for the Wolves Satirdau, as the Brazilian ended up with 65 ball contacts.

Stuttgart’s biggest chance came after a long ball which released Ibisevic into space. The Bosnian’s shot was kept out by Benaglio, and the former Hoffenheim player was brought to the ground by what seemingly was a legal tackle by Pogatetz afterwards. Referee Welz decided to give Stuttgart a penalty just the same. Ibisevic himself decided to take the penalty. His weak penalty was kept out by Benaglio, and adding insult to injury, the Bosnian managed to miss an open goal from 5 meters from the rebound of Benaglio’s save..

Three minutes after Ibisevic’s missed penalty Wolfsburg managed to decide the game. A well constructed counter attack saw Fagner passing the ball to Vieirinha on the right hand side. His cross found the head of Bas Dost. Three of Stutttgart’s defenders had in the meantime followed Olic’s run, leaving the Dutchman free to head the ball over the line.

Conclusion: Dost’s goal gives Wolfsburg the perfect start into the new season

Both teams were willing to go forward , but they are a bit rusty after the long summer break. It was the lacking precision on both sides that lead to a rather anemic game without many chances. The players in Felix Magath’s team need still a few weeks before the team is going to gel. Stuttgart were often times just a inches away from creating the sort of attacking moves they did in the second half of last season.

Both Magath and Labbadia can be happy about their sides defensive displays. Wolfsburg’s new centre back pairing of Naldo and Pogatetz worked out well. Cacau showed that he still has something that he can add to the Stuttgart side, whilst the new duo on VfB’s left hand side, Traoré and Boka, still needs to work on their chemistry.

Wolfsburg were in the end the luckier of two poor sides. Dost’s goal came as a result of a lapse in Stuttgart’s defense. As for the attacking display of both teams one word suffices: Awful.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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