In a mesmerising game at the Volkswagen Arena on Friday evening, VfL Wolfsburg rose to a provisional fifth place in the Bundesliga table with an entertaining come-from-behind 5-3 victory over a formidable SV Werder Bremen side.
For the first time this season, Oliver Glasner named an unchanged line-up, keeping faith with the same XI that dominated Schalke 04 on Saturday. There was no place on the bench for Marin Pongracic and William, both back in training after respectively testing positive for COVID-19 and recovering from a torn cruciate ligament, nor for sidelined skipper Josuha Guilavogui. In the absence of the influential Frenchman, Koen Casteels held onto the captain’s armband.
The Green-and-Whites dominated possession in the early stages, but were caught napping in the 13th minute, Leonardo Bittencourt slamming the ball home from close range after Yuya Osako had robbed Maxence Lacroix near the byline.
The Wolves refused to bow their heads, and they equalised in the 22nd minute, Ridle Bake thumping a powerful effort past Jiri Pavlenka from just outside the box for his second goal of the season. Three minutes later, the turnaround was complete, as John Brooks directed a firm header into the corner of the Bremen net from Josip Brekalo’s inviting cross.
The visitors, fresh off a creditable 1-1 draw in Munich, subsequently demonstrated their resilience, making it 2-2 via substitute Kevin Möhwald’s looping header in the 35th minute. Not to be outdone, Glasner’s men regained the lead almost immediately, as Weghorst pounced on a loose ball to score his fifth goal in six matches.
Back and forth
Werder came bursting out the blocks after the break and again levelled the score within a couple of minutes, Milot Rashica’s cross deflecting off Brooks to fly past Casteels. The action continued to swing this way and that: Brekalo had a long-range shot saved and Maxi Arnold fired an effort just wide, while at the other end Casteels had to look sharp on several occasions.
The Wolves went ahead once more in the 76th minute when Jerome Roussillon found an unmarked Weghorst, who leapt impressively to head home his 39th Bundesliga goal, a total that moves him up to joint fourth in the club's all-time league scorer's list alongside Andrzej Juskowiak.
Shortly afterwards, Werder’s evening went from bad to worse when Möhwald was shown a second yellow card and ordered off. As the ten men pushed forward, they left significant gaps at the back, a state of affairs that young Polish substitute Bartosz Bialek gleefully took advantage of to notch his first Bundesliga goal and seal the points in injury time.
VfL Wolfsburg: Casteels (c) - Baku, Lacroix, Brooks, Roussillon (Otavio 81’) - Schlager, Arnold - Steffen (Philipp 65’), Mehmedi (Bialek 81’), Brekalo (Victor 90’) - Weghorst
SV Werder Bremen: Pavlenka - Gebre Selassie, Toprak, Friedl - Mbom (Möhwald 32’), Eggestein, Gross (Woltemade 85’), Augustinsson, Bittencourt (Agu 72’), Rashica (Chong 72’) - Osako (Selke 85’)
Goals: 0-1 Bittencourt (13'), 1-1 Baku (22'), 2-1 Brooks (25'), 2-2 Möhwald (35'), 3-2 Weghorst (37’), 3-3 Brooks OG (47’), 4-3 Weghorst (76’), 5-3 (Bialek (90+5’)
Yellow cards: Lacroix, Arnold / Mbom, Möhwald
Red card: Möhwald
Referee: Christian Dingert (Gries)