Defensively solid all night against the second tier's top-scoring side, the Wolves put in an impressive first-half performance – building on Friday's 3-1 first-leg win at the Volkswagen-Arena – but were denied a deserved goal when VAR ruled out Yunus Malli's 18th-minute finish for offside. The hosts improved in the second period, forcing several good saves from Koen Casteels, but Knoche's 75th-minute header put the play-off to bed, with Rafael Czichos' late goal ruled out for handball. The 1-0 win was nothing less than merited for Bruno Labbadia's troops, and a 4-1 aggregate triumph was a fair reflection of the Bundesliga side's superiority over two legs.
Labbadia names unchanged side
Wolfsburg head coach Labbadia opted for the same side that beat Kiel in the first leg. Maximilian Arnold – starting his tenth straight competitive game – wore the armband, with Felix Uduokhai at left-back. Daniel Didavi remains out with an Achilles problem, meaning Yunus Malli, a first-leg goalscorer, retained his place in attacking midfield.
Malli goal disallowed
The Wolves made an excellent start, almost taking the lead within two minutes, only for Uduokhai to nod wide from Arnold's right-wing free-kick. The stand-in skipper's set-pieces continued to prove a threat; two minutes after Aaron Seydel shot wide in the 14th minute, another Arnold free-kick drew a good stop from Kenneth Kronholm. Labbadia's troops were rewarded for their enterprising start shortly afterwards when Malli rolled home from close range, but Divock Origi was ruled offside in the build-up. There were few other chances of note, and despite Kiel ending the first period in the driving seat, Origi's long-range effort three minutes prior to the interval was the closest either side came to a breakthrough.
Knoche header seals the deal
The hosts emerged from their shells in the second period, Seydel forcing a fine, one-handed save from Casteels within two minutes of the restart. Marshalled well at the back by Knoche and John Brooks, however, the Wolves stood firm, and scored the vital away goal in the 75th minute when Knoche stole in at the front post and headed in. As was to be expected with a top-flight place on the line, Kiel threw everything at Labbadia's side in the closing stages – with Czichos' header ruled out by VAR – but the visitors were obdurate and held on for a win on the night and on aggregate, securing a top-flight place next season.
Holstein Kiel: Kronholm – Herrmann (Peitz 80'), Schmidt, Czichos, van den Bergh – Kinsombi, Mühling – Schindler, Weilandt (Janzer 76'), Seydel – Ducksch
VfL Wolfsburg: Casteels – William, Brooks, Knoche, Uduokhai – Guilavogui, Arnold – Brekalo (Blaszczykowski 90+2'), Malli (Camacho 76'), Steffen – Origi (Dimata 84')
Goal: Knoche (75')
Yellow cards: Herrmann, Ducksch, Peitz / Uduokhai, Brooks
Attendance: 12,000 (sold out)
Referee: Daniel Siebert (Berlin)