Well-taken goals from Wout Weghorst and summer signing Maxence Lacroix put the Green-and-Whites firmly in command in Albania, with Koen Casteels’ saving Eduard Rroca’s well-struck penalty before half-time. Weghorst doubled his tally with 15 minutes remaining before Admir Mehmedi’s late strike rounded off a comfortable evening for the Wolves, who will face FC Desna Chernihiv in the third qualifying round after kicking off their Bundesliga campaign at home to Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday.
Casteels, who missed the DFB Cup victory over Union Fürstenwalde with a facial injury, returned in goal in one of three changes to the team that started Saturday’s 4-1 win. Josip Brekalo and Xaver Schlager were both handed their first competitive starts of the campaign, with DFB Cup goalscorers Yannick Gerhardt and Joao Victor named among the substitutes.
Lacroix opens VfL account
The two teams traded opportunities in the opening minutes as Weghorst shot straight at Antonio Elezaj from Mehmedi’s low cross, before Bruno Telushi’s powerful free-kick was punched to safety by Casteels. Maximilian Arnold almost went one better at the other end in the 15th minute, but Elezaj was equal to the midfielder’s crisp low drive.
The breakthrough came on 21 minutes, when Erhun Obanor’s attempted clearance struck a teammate before landing at the feet of Weghorst, who beat Elezaj with a trademark finish. Lacroix doubled VfL’s lead from a similar position just after the half-hour mark, before Casteels produced a magnificent one-handed save from Rroca’s penalty following Felix Klaus’s foul on the Kukesi player.
Wolves finish with a flourish
Kukesi threatened to reduce the deficit again 13 minutes into the second half, but half-time substitute Albin Gashi’s curling effort from the edge of the penalty area struck the crossbar before bouncing clear. Chances were few and far between after that, with VfL seemingly content to protect their comfortable two-goal advantage.
Weghorst eventually doubled his personal tally for the evening with a quarter of an hour remaining, finishing off a flowing counterattack involving second-half substitute Victor. Mehmedi got in on the act in the final minute of normal time, poking the ball past Elezaj to complete the scoring. Oliver Glasner’s side will now look to secure a place in the Europa League play-off round when they host Ukrainian side Desna Chernihiv in the third qualifying stage next Thursday.
FK Kukesi: Elezaj - Malikji, Horic, Obanor, Demiri - Telushi, Musolli (Gavazaj 60’) - Rroca (Cooper 70’), Limaj, Musta (Gashi 46’) - Eze
VfL Wolfsburg: Casteels - Klaus (Roussillon 67’), Lacroix, Guilavogui, Paulo Otavio - Schlager, Arnold (Gerhardt 36’) - Steffen, Mehmedi, Brekalo (Joao Victor 74’) - Weghorst
Goals: 0-1 Weghorst (21’), 0-2 Lacroix (33’), 0-3 Weghorst (75’), 0-4 Mehmedi (89’)
Yellow cards: Demiri, Horic / Otavio, Klaus, Lacroix, Steffen, Mehmedi
Other: Casteels saves Rroca’s penalty (35’)
Referee: Duje Strukan (Croatia)