Following the 2-1 victory over Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, Peter Bosz saw no reason to change his starting line-up in spite of playing three games in eight days. "The result has given us a boost," said the Dutchman before kick-off.
It was evident that both teams had been in action on the European stage in the week as the tempo was restrained at the start of the game. However, Bayer 04 were first on the front foot and had the opening chance of the match with a low drive from Karim Bellarabi on six minutes. Otherwise the two teams struggled to make headway. The defences were on top and Jonathan Tah and Sven Bender were able to handle the Wolves' sharpshooter Wout Weghorst.
Sven Bender was involved in a clash with Joao Victor on 20 minutes but after extended treatment the Bayer 04 number five was able to carry on after his nosebleed was stopped. The first chance for the hosts came on 23 minutes but a volley from Weghorst hit the side netting.
In a game where neither attack was able to impress, it was no surprise that an outstanding individual contribution was required – and that came from Bellarabi. The Werkself right winger received the ball on the touchline and then kept possession. He broke from the right into the box leaving Jeffrey Bruma and Jerome Roussillon standing and was then able to beat Josuha Guilavogui with a combination of assertiveness and some fortune before hitting a shot with his weaker left foot into the net at the near post – a brilliant solo effort to open the scoring (25').
The game livened up after the first goal: Kai Havertz was stopped in the box with a borderline tackle, Pavao Pervan saved a shot from Kevin Volland (40') and, at the other end, Charles Aránguiz managed to intervene as Robin Knoche was about to shoot (33'), and Maximilian Arnold hit the side netting (36'). In spite of deservedly being in the lead, the Werkself suffered a blow just before half-time: Havertz suffered a thigh injury defending and had to go off.
The next change took place at half-time: Bellarabi was replaced by Moussa Diaby. Lucas Hradecky was then tested when the Finn, who was almost redundant in the first half, made a flying save to keep out a long-range rocket from Arnold and Kerem Demirbay blocked a dangerous follow-up shot from Weghorst (51'). Wolfsburg were now much livelier and a shot from Felix Klaus from the edge of the box rolled just past the left post (53').
The Werkself continued to pose a threat and did not sit back with Nadiem Amiri having a great chance to score a second but the shot from the Germany international went just wide (55'). It was a hard-fought and evenly balanced encounter but Wolfsburg continued to find it difficult up front also because the black and red defence produced a calm and disciplined performance that frustrated the opposition. As the Werkself then struggled to pose a threat there were few chances in the middle of the second half.
The game did liven up in the closing stages – initially in front of the Wolfsburg goal. Diaby used his pace in a counter-attack but his strike from inside the box went just over the bar (79'). The hosts naturally pressed for an equaliser but Weghorst missed the best chance for the Wolves as the ball just trickled past the Leverkusen net (81'). Bayer 04 were not seriously threatened after that as the Werkself defence continued to do an outstanding job.
Bayer 04 had the final chances of the match: Paulinho came on and almost immediately had a shot saved from a tight angle by Pervan (90'). Volland was blocked when he was in a promising position (90+4'). Added time was virtually over when the Werkself rounded it off proceedings: Volland put Paulinho through and he was able to slot the ball past Pervan for his first Bundesliga goal (90+6').
Bayer 04 take the three points into the international break and are in touch with the leading group. The next game for the Werkself after the international fixtures is against SC Freiburg at the BayArena on 23 November (15.30 CET).
VfL Wolfsburg: Pervan - Tisserand, Bruma, Knoche (Nmecha 83') - William, Guilavogui, Arnold, Roussillon - Joao Victor (Brekalo 62'), Klaus (Steffen 74') - Weghorst
Bayer 04: Hradecky – Weiser, Tah, S. Bender, Wendell – Aránguiz, Demirbay (Paulinho 90') – Bellarabi (Diaby 46'), Havertz (Baumgartlinger 42'), Amiri – Volland
Goals: 0-1 Bellarabi (25'), 0-2 Paulinho (90+6')
Referee: Manuel Gräfe (Berlin)
Booked: Joao Victor, Tisserand - Volland, Tah
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