VfL had not lost to Fortuna in eight competitive matches, and that statistic only rarely looked like changing at the Merkur Spiel-Arena, despite the away side conceding an early goal. A well-worked equaliser – finished with aplomb by Wout Weghorst – just before the half-hour mark levelled things up for the Wolves, who were unfortunate not to take more from the match.
Oliver Glasner was forced to shuffle the pack following injuries to John Brooks, Koen Casteels and Xaver Schlager, bringing in Marcel Tisserand, Pavao Pervan and Yannick Gerhardt, who had played the majority of the match against SC Paderborn 07. In addition, Admir Mehmedi, who scored for Switzerland during the international break, was also promoted from the bench, swapping places with Joao Victor.
The Wolves dominated the early exchanges, taking the game to the home team, and were unlucky not to open the scoring in the fourth minute when Maximilian Arnold fired the ball wide after Josip Brekalo had caused havoc in the box. Subsequently, Fortuna enjoyed a sustained period of pressure, creating a handful of half-chances, and they found a way through Wolfsburg’s three-man backline – which has performed so creditably thus far this season – in the 16th minute, Niko Gießelmann smashing the ball past Pervan from a tight angle. Just a quarter-of-an-hour later, VfL scored an outstanding leveller, Brekalo skipping past his man beautifully to set up Weghorst, who produced one of his trademark composed finishes. Right on the stroke of a mesmerising first half, Weghorst almost notched a second goal, but Zach Steffen got down well to make the save.
Klaus comes close
The Green-Whites began the second period as they ended the first, moving the ball around effectively and generally looking more comfortable in possession than their opponents. With Brekalo looking particularly sharp and linking well with William down the right flank, they earned a series of corners, without creating any clear-cut chances. This dearth of opportunities for both teams eventually came to an end in the 82nd minute, when a Weghorst header was comfortably held by Steffen. The Wolves stepped up a gear in the final five minutes, going extremely close through substitute Felix Klaus, whose point-blank effort was deflected away by the leg of Steffen. In the end, it was the home side who almost gave their noisy support something to cheer about in the dying seconds, but Baker’s free-kick from just outside the box could not find its way past an unyielding VfL wall.
Glasner, who further extends his unbeaten record as head coach with this result, had made it clear in his pre-match press conference that the Wolves were travelling to Düsseldorf to win, and although he will be disappointed by the result, he will likely be more pleased with the performance, which could easily have effected a more fruitful outcome on another night.
Fortuna Düsseldorf: Steffen – Zimmermann, Bormuth, Ayhan (Adams 80’), Giesselmann – Bodzek, Baker – Thommy (Zimmer 73’), Fink (c) (Karaman 72’), Kownacki – Hennings
VfL Wolfsburg: Pervan – Knoche, Guilavogui (c), Tisserand – William, Gerhardt, Arnold, Roussillon – Brekalo (Victor 90’), Weghorst, Mehmedi (Klaus 69’)
Goals: Giesselmann (16’), Weghorst (29’)
Yellow cards: - / Weghorst, Knoche
Referee: Manuel Gräfe (Berlin)