VfL Wolfsburg recorded their fifth successive home win on Sunday evening, beating VfB Stuttgart 1-0 in the final Bundesliga game of 2020. It is the first time this season that Stuttgart have lost away from home and failed to score in any game, which is testament to the Wolves’ defensive performance. Josip Brekalo’s deflected free-kick in the 49th minute was enough to earn Oliver Glasner’s side the points, meaning they end the year in fourth place.
After Wednesday’s DFB Cup second round match against Sandhausen, there’s a brief break before VfL return to Bundesliga action away to Borussia Dortmund on Sunday 3 January.
COVID outbreak forces changes
Glasner’s preparations for the game were hit by the news that Maximilian Arnold and Jerome Roussillon had both tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, meaning that they, along with close contacts Maximilian Philipp and Xaver Schlager, had to sit out. Josuha Guilavogui, Yannick Gerhardt, Bartosz Bialek and Paulo Otavio were the replacements, while Renato Steffen was preferred to Kevin Mbabu on the right.
The Wolves had the better of the opportunities during an even first half, with Maxence Lacroix heading just over from Brekalo’s corner in only the second minute. Gerhardt then had a double chance, seeing his shot blocked by VfB goalkeeper Gregor Kobel before heading the rebound into the side-netting.
The visitors’ only notable attempt on goal came in the 24th minute when Silas Wamangituka broke free and rolled the ball just wide of the far post. But the Green-and-Whites remained the team more likely to break the deadlock and did actually put the ball in the net on the half-hour mark, but Gerhardt’s headed goal – just after Wout Weghorst spurned a good opportunity – was disallowed due to a foul by Bialek. Despite the hosts’ best efforts, it stayed goalless at the break.
Wolves grind out win
The Wolves eventually got the bit of luck they needed four minutes into the second half, when Brekalo’s free-kick on the edge of the area took a couple of deflections and bounced in. However, the Croatia international was forced off shortly afterwards following a challenge.
Glasner’s men protected their lead fairly comfortably although they were given a big let-off in the 70th minute when Nicolas Gonzalez fluffed an easy tap-in from close range. The visitors upped the pressure in the latter stages but the Wolves’ backline held firm to see them over the line.
The reaction of the coaches
VfL Wolfsburg: Casteels – Baku (Victor 87’), Lacroix, Pongracic (Brooks 73’), Otavio – Guilavogui, Gerhardt – Steffen, Bialek (Ginczek 73’), Brekalo (Mbabu 60’) – Weghorst
VfB Stuttgart: Kobel – Stenzel (Kalajdzic 73’), Anton, Kempf – Wamangituka (Klimowicz 60’), Mangala, Endo, Sosa (Castro 81’) – Didavi (Klement 81’), Coulibaly (Massimo 61’) - Gonzalez
Goals: Brekalo (49’)
Yellow cards: Steffen, Gerhardt / Gonzalez, Anton, Mangala
Referee: Florian Badstübner (Windsbach)