Europa League night’s have been largely successful for Wolfsburg, however this time around they were given a lesson as a rare home defeat saw them outclassed by a tremendous Napoli.
Going into this week’s Europa League game Wolfsburg would’ve been quietly confident as they went in with just one loss in their last twenty-three competitive game’s and that came against Augsburg back at the start of March. So with a huge test ahead Napoli managed to turn on the style as they defeated Fiorentina 3-0 to put an end to a poor a run which has seen them win just once in their last nine matches, that came in the Europa League against Dinamo Moscow.
Early on in the game Ricardo Rodriguez’s had a chance from a freekick, however he could only curl wide after he managed to get it up over the wall.
Wolfsburg almost carved open a goal as the game struck the ten minute mark. Rodriguez provided a lovely weighted pass through to Luiz Gustavo, he sent it wide to Kevin De Bruyne and unfortunately his cross was dealt with well by a defender as Bas Dost came rushing across goal.
Wolfsburg were the side on top in the early stages, however they found themselves going behind after fifteen minutes. Dries Mertens played a delicious long ball over the top to pick out Gonzalo Higuaín, who beat the offside trap and with the help of his arm brought it down perfectly for him to put the ball past Diego Benaglio.
The goalscorer moment’s later found himself played in over the top once more this time his effort was blocked and deflected into space for Benaglio to claim.
Things worsened for Wolfsburg after twenty-three minutes as Napoli grabbed a second away goal. Christian Maggio did brilliantly to pick out Higuaín and take two player’s out of the game, Higuaín then provided a terrific pass through to Marek Hamšík and at the first time of asking he calmly curled his effort past Benaglio.
Wolfsburg were rattled by Napoli’s two goal’s and looked very nervous, especially at the back. Despite that just before the half hour mark they managed to create a chance. Similar to an earlier chance De Bruyne crossed from the left and a defender managed to stop Dost tapping in. The resulting corner saw Naldo leap the highest and his header flew narrowly over.
Higuaín would’ve grabbed his second of the night had it not been for Naldo, Hamšík pulled the ball back towards the Argentine and Naldo brilliantly slid in to deny him.
Just before the break Napoli carved open another chance and once they found Hamšík there was only one thought in his mind. This time his shot came from just outside the area and saw Benaglio get down well to palm the shot out for a corner.
Wolfsburg needed something special to get back into the game before half time and they almost got it as the game went into injury time. André Schürrle came in from the left and unleashed a tremendous effort only to see Mariano Andújar provide a quality save to match it, the ball struck the bar as it went out for a corner.
The first leg was already becoming a nightmare for Wolfsburg and early in the second half it could’ve been made a lot worse as Higuaín raced through once again. This time though Benaglio produced the good’s as he made a great save to keep his team in with a chance of turning things round.
Wolfsburg caused a couple of problem’s ten minute’s into the half, however not to much reward. First up they patiently kept possession and Gustavo tried his luck from range, only to see it blocked and deflect out for a corner. The resulting corner was played short and despite doing the hard work by beating two player’s, Daniel Caligiuri got the shot horribly wrong and it flew well over.
The tie was pretty much over after sixty-four minutes. Benaglio fired the ball into Josuha Guilavogui and the young midfielder gifted the ball to Napoli. José Callejón picked up the ball and charged into the area before playing the ball across the six yard box to Hamšík, the Napoli captain managed to get away from both centre back’s to have an easy tap in.
Wolfsburg’s Guilavogui almost made up for his error twenty minute’s from time, De Bruyne produced a lovely cross into the area and the Frenchman shot fist time and Andújar produced another fantastic save to deny the host’s once more.
This tie was indeed a nightmare and it was one that kept getting worse and worse. Manolo Gabbiadini came off the bench and a minute later he made it four for Napoli, Lorenzo Insigne delivered a great cross which picked the substitute out perfectly and he header home, Benaglio got his foot to the effort but couldn’t stop it going across the line.
Wolfsburg fan’s did have something to cheer about as ten minute’s from time their team managed to get on the score sheet. Ivan Perišić providing a rare bit of quality as he drove into the area, taking two defender’s with him before cutting back to the unmarked Nicklas Bendtner for a tap in.
Gabbiadini was denied a second of the game two minute’s after his side conceded, his effort from twenty yards was a terrific one, Benaglio was beaten and the only thing to save Wolfsburg was the crossbar as it struck it and cannoned away.
Wolfsburg’s Europa League disaster finally came to end after three minute’s of injury time and they’ll have to perform something spectacular if they’re to turn this tie around in Naples. Up next for the German side they will try to recover from this result against Schalke, while Napoli face another away trip as they visit Cagliari.
Article for VAVEL Bundesliga.