Europe: Champions League
1 - 3
(0 - 1)
LOSC Lille
R. Steffen (89)
B. Yılmaz (11), J. David (72), A. Gomes (78)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Wolfsburg crash out of Europe with another flat performance

VfL Wolfsburg entered Wednesday night's Champions' League fixture knowing that, thanks to their group constellation, it was either the UCL knockout rounds or bust. A third place finish (and Europa League referral) was not possible for Germany's green company team. 

As it turned, "bust" it would be. A very meek performance sees the German Wolves crash out of Europe. Florian Kohfeldt's VfL are now winless in five on the trot and been outscored 13-4 in the current run. 
With plenty of rhetorical bombast, VfL Wolfsburg trainer Florian Kohfeldt spoke of an immensely important "do-or-die" fixture ahead of the final group stage matchday of 2021/22 Champions' League. The state of UCL Group G meant that the German representatives entered the final round potentially being able to finish 1st, 2nd, or 4th based on their performance and the outcome of the other match. It was thus a pretty big night Wednesday at the Volkswagen Arena.

Seeking to stop a four-match winless slide, Kohfeldt made five changes to the starting XI that faltered early and never truly recovered against Mainz over the weekend. First-choice keeper and team captain Koen Casteels made his return from COVID quarantine to take his place between the sticks. In the outfield, Yannick Gerhardt, Kevin Mbabu, Luca Waldschmidt, and Sebastiaan Bornauw replaced John Anthony Brooks, Ridle Baku, Dodi Lukebakio, and Lukas Nmecha.

The resulting formation looked to be a tight 4-2-3-1 anchored by Waldschmidt at the ten-spot. Gerhardt and Aster Vranckx worked as pseudo wingers behind Wout Weghorst. Maximilian Arnold and Joshua Guilavogui held the midfield as double sixes. Bornauw paired with Maxence Lacroix in central defense, flanking by fullbacks Mbabu and Paulo Otavio. The defending Ligue 1 Champions lined up in a 4-3-3.

After ten minutes of midfield stalemate, the French guests made life as difficult as possible for their German hosts by jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the 11th. Lille keeper Ivo Grbic grabbed an Arnold corner and kick started a quick counter attack back the other way. The team got upfield in a matter of seconds and Barak Yilmaz ultimately finished off a Jonathan Ikoné service.

This put the hosts under immediate pressure, as they would then have to score two in order to keep their hopes of advancement alive. Waldschmidt very nearly came up with a response in the 12th, but the former Freiburg striker's distance effort whizzed just wide. After that, the Wolves could muster nothing of note until Weghorst headed an Arnold set-piece on target in the 28th.

The Dutchman missed another good chance in the 40th. Lacroix and Mbabu also got looks in. Overall, however, the Autostädter weren't creative or consistently dangerous enough to merit a level scoreline heading into the locker rooms. Kohfeldt made one halftime change, introducing Dodi Lukebakio for Gerhardt in the hopes of getting something going.

Regrettably, it produced nothing. If anything, Lille were the more enterprising team after the restart. Keeper Casteels had to make some stops and even found himself lucky that a pair of efforts went wide when he was beaten. After knocking on the door for an uninterrupted period of twelve minutes or so, Jonathan David finally pushed the second Lille goal over the line in the 72nd.

Needing three unanswered goals to advance, the European dream was essentially over for die Wölfe. Ikoné set up Angel Gomes for the 3-0 just six minutes later. Renato Steffen pulled back a useless consolation tally one minute from time. The goal did at least ensure that Wolfsburg weren't blanked for the third time during their current five-game-winless run.

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