Wolfsburg pulled off a remarkable 4-1 win away at Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday night to take control of the race for Europa League football.
A Marin Pongracic double and further strikes from Renato Steffen and the impressive Max Arnold were enough to do the damage, consigning Julian Baumgartlinger’s late goal to represent a mere footnote.
So, what did we learn from this impressive Wolfsburg performance?
1. Leverkusen run finally ends
Leverkusen were on a fantastic 12-game unbeaten run across all competitions heading into this one, winning 11 of those matches. It was a run which had seen Peter Bosz’s men play some incredibly stylish football and push them into serious contention for Champions League qualification.
That run fell apart in dramatic style on Tuesday night as Die Werkself succumbed to a 4-1 beating, looking oddly suspect at the back and uncharacteristically blunt offensively.
4-1 was actually quite flattering to Leverkusen, who were bailed out by some fine goalkeeping from Lukas Hradecky, while they rarely looked like threatening Wolfsburg’s defence — which was curious, considering how mobile, dynamic and decisive they’ve been in the final third in recent games.
Leverkusen certainly still remain in the hunt for Champions League football, but this was a huge chance missed to go third in the table.
2. Tapsoba is mortal after all
Of course, it wasn’t just Bayer Leverkusen who were looking to defend an unbeaten run on Tuesday — centre-back Edmond Tapsoba was yet to taste defeat across 11 games since joining from Guimaraes in January, further highlighting just how good Leverkusen have been since the turn of the year.
Well, it turns out Tapsoba is mortal after all and let’s just say the 21-year-old will want to forget this one in a hurry, with his side’s defence being carved open at will by Wolfsburg. The less said about Leverkusen‘s defending from set-pieces the better, too.
3. Brooks silences the ‘crown prince’
Earning the moniker of ‘crown prince of German football’, Kai Havertz has been in unbelievable form this season, making scoring and assisting goals look like child’s play. The German looked all set to tear Wolfsburg apart on Tuesday night. Wolfsburg defender John Brooks, however, had other ideas.
The USA international was absolutely immense for Oliver Glasner’s side, making six clearances, three interceptions and doing a wonderful job of essentially marking Havertz out of the game.
Brooks was just as measured as he was assertive, showing that the best way to keep a good player quiet is often by merely disrupting him with clever timing and smart decision making — knowing when to come and meet the ball and when to drop off.
It’s no coincidence Leverkusen were only able to breach the Wolfsburg defence after Brooks was withdrawn.
4. Wolfsburg seize control of Europa League race
The top five in the Bundesliga have broken off into their own mini-league but below that, there’s a real race hotting up for Europa League football. Just nine points separated Wolfsburg in sixth and Union Berlin in 13th heading into Tuesday’s match, so no slip-ups were allowed.
Wolfsburg rose to the challenge brilliantly, taking apart one of the Bundesliga‘s most exciting outfits with unerring ease and, a lapse in the final 10 minutes aside, keeping things locked up at the back.
Seventh-placed Freiburg could only manage a 3-3 draw in a ding-dong battle away at Eintracht Frankfurt, so Wolfsburg’s impressive win now moves them two points clear in sixth and puts them well in control of that final Europa League spot.
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) May 26, 2020
5. Arnold gets the best birthday present
Arnold turns 26 on Wednesday, so what better way to celebrate than playing a key role in Wolfsburg’s demolition of Leverkusen?
The Germany international managed two assists and a goal for himself on the night, while his delivery from set-pieces was absolutely impeccable.
Maximilian Arnold's game by numbers vs. Bayer Leverkusen:
8 final ⅓ entries
4 penalty area entries
2 shots on target
2 fouls won
2 chances created
The perfect early birthday present. 🎁 pic.twitter.com/8xOaFGkgUl
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 26, 2020
Arnold made more successful passes (25) than any other Wolfsburg player on the night and didn’t shy away from his defensive duties either, making two tackles, an interception and a clearance.
Arnold covered 12.09km on the night, which was bettered only by Wout Weghorst (12.27km) — the playmaker has well and truly earned the right to put his feet up and enjoy his birthday.