Captain Joshua Guilavogui scored what proved to be the winning goal and made a sensational clearance off the line to keep Wolfsburg's European hopes alive. There's nevertheless more foreboding news for the club's injuring-ravaged defensive corps.
|Josuha Guilavogui.||Photo: Дмитрий Голубович/Soccer.ru/CC-by-SA 3.0|
European debutants Desna Tschernihiw gave Oliver Glasner's Wolves a good scare at the Volkswagen Arena on Thursday night. In the end, the Ukrainian club's hopes for a sensational upset were dashed and VfL Wolfsburg punched their ticket for the Europa League's final qualifying round.
The main hero of the evening was none other than captain Joshua Guilavogui, who returned to the starting XI after sitting out last weekend's opening Bundesliga fixture on a previous red card. Guilavogui replaced John Anthony Brooks at center back, reuniting with newly acquired sensation Maxence Lacroix to form Glasner's preferred current center back pairing.
In additional personnel moves, 21-year-old Egyptian Omar Marmoush made his starting debut on the right wing. Renato Steffen, ordinarily a right winger, moved into the the defense to fill Wolfsburg's vacant right fullback position.
Steffen held the right side steady while most of the attacks originated on the left-hand side, courtesy of Jerome Roussillon at the left fullback position. Roussillon earned a decisive corner in the 15th. Admit Mehmedi supplied the service on the ensuing set piece and Steffen headed on towards goal. Guilavogui was able to stroke home Steffen's flick for a 16th minute opening goal and 1-0 Wolfsburg lead.
For the duration of the first half, most of the better chances came from the Ukrainians, but the makeshift VfL defense held well together in numbers. More individualized heroics were required after the restart as the guests came out of the tunnel determined to equalize.
Keeper Koen Casteels had to be alert to parry away a tight angle shot in the 47th. A sprawled Casteels could not hope to save the rebound. Luckily, Guilavogui was able to hustle back to drastically clear off the line. Four minutes later, Casteels was again forced into a stretch save on a scorching effort from Desna's Vladislav Kalitvintsev.
With there hosts forced back on their heels, an equalizer seemed to be forthcoming. Regrettably for the underdogs, Desna's Estonian defender Joonas Tamm was sent off after quick succession bookings in the 57th and 60th. Ten-man Desna couldn't muster up enough strength to challenge their Bundesliga opponents thereafter. Wolfsburg themselves produced little of note until substitute Daniel Ginczek finished a Xaver Schlager square two minutes into injury time.
Wolfsburg now head to Athens next week for the decisive playoff game against AEK Football Club. For OIiver Glasner & Co, the good news is that they are now only one win away from Europe. The bad news, however, may do more than offset this accomplishment.
Maxence Lacroix, who had already played his way into many initial team-of-the-week selections in his Bundesliga debut, came off injured in the 62nd. Trainer Glasner revealed to the press afterward that the injury is serious enough to imperil his ability to start against Freiburg on Sunday.