VfL Wolfsburg suffered a disappointing setback in the battle to avoid relegation on Matchday 32, slumping to a 3-1 defeat at home Hamburger SV. The Green-Whites put in a committed fight over much of the match, but were caught napping shortly before the break when Bobby Wood (pen. 43') and Lewis Holtby (45'+1) fired the guests ahead. Josip Brekalo reduced the deficit in the second half (78'), but in injury-time effort from Luca Waldschmidt dashed any VfL hopes of snatching a point.
Kuba celebrates comeback, Tisserand returns to the starting XI
Following last week's frustrating 3-0 defeat in Gladbach, VfL head coach Bruno Labbadia made six changes to his starting line-up: John Anthony Brooks, Paul Jaeckel, Daniel Didavi, Riechedly Bazoer, Yunus Malli and Nany Landry Dimata were replaced by Felix Uduokhai, Josuha Guilavogui, Marcel Tisserand, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Renato Steffen and Divock Origi from the outset.
The Wolves got off to a brisk start, looking to put HSV under pressure high up the park and had their first clear chance in the 13th minute. Following a well-worked passing move, Paul Verhaegh's low cross into the centre found Steffen, who fired over from point-blank range. As the game progressed both sides pressed with purpose, cancelling each other out with some full-blooded challenges to deny the opposition any space.
Wood from the spot, Holtby punishes stunned Wolves
However, VfL continued to press and forged the next opening when a long ball forward set Maximilian Arnold on his way. The midfielder’s delivery found substitute Bazoer, who dragged his shot well wide of the mark (24'). Worse was to come when Tatsuya Ito dribbled into the penalty area and was felled by Guilavogui. Referee Daniel Siebert immediately pointed to the spot and the ensuing penalty was slotted home by Wood to put HSV in front (43'). The Wolves were visibly stunned and the visitors took full advantage when a cross from the tireless Ito was met by Holtby, whose flicked header looped over Koen Casteels into the far corner. It was a hammer blow for the battling Green-Whites, who headed into the break two goals down.
With the home team forced to take a more attacking approach, VfL coach Labbadia introduced winger Josip Brekalo at the expense of full-back Verhaegh. The Wolves were eager to reduce the deficit and very nearly did so when Uduokhai only just failed to make contact with a free-kick from Blaszczykowski (60'). Just minutes later, the Polish international delivered another good cross into the box, but Arnold's volley flew narrowly wide of the mark (68').
Brekalo’s glimmer of hope
Ultimately, a set-piece gave the Wolves a lifeline: from a position in the inside left channel, Brekalo fired an unstoppable low shot into the HSV net (78’) and a game that looked to have got away from the Green-Whites was now wide open. VfL pushed continuously, but were unable to produce the necessary creative spark. Waldschmidt sealed the Wolves' fate shortly before the final whistle, finishing on the rebound after Casteels had saved Filip Kostic's stoppage-time penalty.
VfL Wolfsburg: Casteels – Verhaegh (46' Brekalo), Knoche, Uduokhai, William – Tisserand (11' Bazoer), Guilavagui – Blaszczykowski (74' Malli), Arnold, Steffen – Origi
Hamburger SV: Pollersbeck - Sakai, Papadopoulos, Jung, Douglas Santos - Steinmann - Kostic, Holtby, Hunt (68' Ekdal), Ito (85' Jatta) – Wood (77' Waldschmidt)
Goals: 0-1 Wood (43'), 0-2 Holtby (45'+1), 1-2 Brekalo (78'), 1-3 Waldschmidt (90'+4)
Yellow cards: Verhaegh, Knoche, Brekalo / Pollersbeck, Papadopoulos
Referee: Daniel Siebert (Berlin)