The Wolves went into the Matchday 31 curtain-raiser unbeaten in three games, but they had a night to forget at Borussia-Park. Lars Stindl set the Foals on their way to victory with an eighth-minute strike, and two further goals before half-time put Gladbach in a comfortable position. Bruno Labbadia’s charges barely troubled the home side and will now be nervously awaiting the weekend’s results: a draw or win for either Mainz or Freiburg would see VfL drop into the relegation play-off place.
Brooks makes comeback from injury
Head coach Labbadia made just one change from the side that drew 0-0 at home to Augsburg last Friday. John Anthony Brooks made his first appearance since December, replacing the suspended Felix Uduokhai in the centre of defence. There was also a welcome return to the squad for Jakub Błaszczykowski.
Gladbach cruise into comfortable lead
VfL got off to a nightmare start at Borussia-Park as the first real opening produced the first goal of the game. The Wolves failed to clear the ball and it ricocheted into the path of Stindl, who rifled it into the roof of the net with the defenders waiting for a non-existent offside flag. Labbadia’s men kept their shape after the early setback but failed to create any chances of their own. Stindl went close to doubling the hosts’ advantage in the 26th minute but his shot was well saved by Koen Casteels.
Labbadia made an early substitution just three minutes later. Brooks, who was on a booking, was replaced by Marcel Tisserand as the Wolves switched to a flat 4-4-2 system. The tactical change did little to alter the course of the game, though, and in the 35th minute Gladbach made it 2-0. Stindl’s effort was saved by Casteels but his strike partner Raffael was on hand to stroke home the rebound. The home side were causing the Wolves problems with their long balls from deep and one such pass three minutes later put Thorgan Hazard through on goal, but his effort was smothered by Casteels.
Things got worse for Wolfsburg when Christoph Kramer made it 3-0 from a free-kick on the stroke of half-time. With Casteels still getting his wall together, Kramer asked the referee if he could take the kick quickly and the midfielder had the simple task of curling the ball into the gaping net. It was the final action of a sorry first half for the Wolves.
Damage limitation for Wolves
The second half was, as expected, somewhat of a non-event. Labbadia’s charges went in search of an early goal but the closest they came was Riechedly Bazoer’s curled effort from the edge of the area, which was comfortably held by Yann Sommer. The home side were able to enjoy themselves and play with freedom without creating many chances. In the 66th minute, Jonas Hofmann wriggled his way into the area only to be denied by Casteels. From the resulting corner, Jannik Vestergaard squandered a free header.
Labbadia brought on Renato Steffen and Divock Origi in the closing stages but the visitors couldn’t muster a consolation goal. The one positive for the Wolves was that they didn’t concede any more goals in the second half, and their goal difference remains superior to the sides below them.
Borussia Mönchengladbach: Sommer – Elvedi, Ginter, Vestergaard, Wendt – Hofmann (Benes 80’), Zakaria (Traore 80’), Kramer (Strobl 85’), Hazard – Raffael, Stindl (c)
Wolfsburg: Casteels – Jaeckel, Brooks (Tisserand 29’), Knoche – Verhaegh (c), Arnold, Bazoer (Steffen 69’), William – Didavi – Dimata (Origi 74’), Malli
Goals: Stindl (8’), Raffael (35’), Kramer (44’)
Yellow cards: Brooks (13’), Arnold (79’)
Referee: Tobias Stieler