The two very different sides of Wolfsburg

James Sharman and Faizal Khamisa recap the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals and preview some Europa League action.

Here’s what happened on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League, in case you missed it…

Match report: Manchester City 2, Paris Saint-Germain 2
Match report: Wolfsburg 2, Real Madrid 0

The two sides of Wolfsburg
Wolfsburg is a tough team to figure out.

They sit a disappointing eighth in the Bundesliga and are coming off a 3-0 loss to Bayer Leverkusen, their third domestic game without a win. It’s very likely that they’re not even going to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

In Europe, though, they’ve been brilliant—they topped their opening-round group that included Manchester United, and Wednesday’s win against heavily-favoured Real Madrid means they have just one loss their last eight European games dating back to last year’s Europa League.

Wednesday wasn’t a case of Real Madrid suffering a Clasico hangover from the weekend. Instead, Wolfsburg bossed the contest from the opening kickoff, the midfield trio of Julian Draxler, Maximilian Arnold and Bruno Henrique linking up to great effect in support of Andre Schurrle up front.

Real’s defence was overwhelmed, with centre-back Sergio Ramos and fullbacks Marcelo and Danilo struggling to thwart the German’s probing counter attacks. Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo were effectively neutralized by a well-organized Wolfsburg defence that kept the dangerous duo in front of them. Real recorded 21 shots, but just three were on target, and goalkeeper Diego Benaglio wasn’t really called into action.

Playing in its first quarterfinal in the Champions League, Wolfsburg is now on the cusp of making the final four. They go into next week’s return match at the Estadio Bernabeu not only with a two-goal advantage but also with momentum, and the knowledge they can beat mighty Real. There’s no need for the Germans to feel cautious ahead of the second leg, nor should they change things up. They outmuscled Real Madrid to great effect on Wednesday and use their pace to unsettle the Spanish side. They can find similar success in Madrid next week by following the same blue print.

MORE ON CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Is this Ibrahimovic’s last shot at winning the Champions League? || Photo Gallery: The quarterfinal matchups || Photo gallery: 8 players to watch in the quarterfinals || Sportsnet soccer panel’s picks and predictions || Atletico will follow Real template in Barcelona showdown || Champions League takeaways: Luis Suarez saves Barcelona

Some lovely build-up play in the 25th minute led to a brilliant team goal by Wolfsburg. Draxler cut inside from the left and played a square ball to Henrique inside the penalty area. The Brazilian picked out a streaking Arnold who tapped home from the edge of the six-yard box.

Manchester City’s Joe Hart did very well in the 14th minute to get down to his right and tip Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s penalty attempt out of danger.

Joe Hart took playing mind games to a new level when he went behind his net to take a sip of water as Zlatan Ibrahimovic waited to take his penalty.

Food for thought for Real Madrid:

“We did not start with the necessary intensity for a Champions League game. That was mistake we made.” – Zinedine Zdiane, Real Madrid manager

• Manchester City’s Joe Hart is the only goalkeeper to save two penalties in this season’s Champions League.
• Real Madrid on Wednesday conceded two goals in the first 25 minutes of a Champions League knockout game for the first time in history.
• Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored in each of his last five Champions League games, equalling his best run in the competition.
• PSG have lost only one of their last 39 home games in European competition (with 25 wins and 13 draws).
• Real Madrid have been knocked out in the last eight knockout rounds of the Champions League after they lost in the first leg.
• PSG have conceded two or more goals in a Champions League home game for the first time against a team other than Barcelona since 2004 (vs. CSKA Moscow).
Stats courtesy of Opta


1) Julian Draxler: Best player on the pitch by a mile. Set up one goal and was a creative force for Wolfsburg.
2) Fernandinho: The Brazilian bagged one goal and set up another for Manchester City.
3) Maximilian Arnold: Scored a goal and was an attacking menace for Wolfsburg.

Soccer Central Podcast

Sportsnet’s Soccer Central podcast, hosted by James Sharman, takes an in-depth look at the beautiful game and offers timely and thoughtful analysis on the sport’s biggest issues.

Listen now | iTunes | Podcatchers

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.