Given the money spent on the squad in the off-season, Wolfsburg are this campaign's biggest disappointments. But the Wolves showed that perhaps not all is lost with a 3-1 win over Leverkusen.
Coming into the match, form favored Bayer Leverkusen, who had risen to fourth in the table after going undefeated in their last seven. But Wolfsburg may have been buoyed by their history of doing well against the Pharmaceuticals at home.
And Leverkusen again proved to be just what the doctor ordered. After only four minutes, playmaker Diego put the Wolves in front with a very Brazilian free kick from 20 meters out.
Ten minutes later striker Bas Dost laid off to to Diego in the box. His low shot snaked through the defense doubled the hosts' advantage.
The Brazilian was playing like a man on a double mission: to show his little-loved ex-coach Felix Magath a thing or two and perhaps to offer some enticement to his former sports director, Bremen's Klaus Allofs, whom Wolfsburg are currently pursuing.
Leverkusen created a couple of chances, but Wolfsburg keeper Diego Benaglio was rock solid. And though the visitors had slight advantages in possession, pass accuracy and challenges won, the Wolves were the ones generating the real pressure.
That paid off just after the half-hour mark. Diego booted an inspired pass up the left side, Marcel Schäfer crossed, and Dost dutifully upped Wolfsburg's lead to 3-nil. And, with the game for all intents and purposes decided, both sides were content to get the final hour over with.
Stefan Kiessling scored a last-second consolation goal, but the Wolves' victory was never in doubt and Leverkusen looked like a team that never found its way into the match.
Wolfsburg looked nothing like the team that only scored two goals in its first eight matches. And while they remain in 16th in the table, they're now level on points with Düsseldorf and Nuremberg. The decision to replace Magath with interim coach Lorenz-Günther Köstner is clearly bearing fruit.
"You can see that a weight has dropped from Diego’s shoulders and that he’s enjoying the game again," Köstner said after the match. "He needs to enjoy his game.”
Meanwhile Leverkusen's undefeated streak comes to an end, and they drop into fifth place. They'll have to do better than this if they want to get back into the Champions League.
Stuttgart shoot themselves in the foot
Stuttgart versus Hanover was a clash between two teams with a lot in common. Both had been in Europa League action on Thursday, and only a point separated them in the table. And both played one - but only one - very good half.
Stuttgart were the better team from the opening whistle and got their just reward in minute 20. Christian Gentner slammed home a cross that had just evaded Vedad Ibisevic’s bicycle kick.
Hanover looked devoid of ideas, but almost knotted things up after a Stuttgart defensive blackout. Mame Diouf intercepted an errant back pass and was very unlucky only to hit the post.
That chance came against the run of play, though, and Stuttgart continued to press. In minute 33, Szabolcs Huszti brought down Gentner in the area, and Ibisevic converted the penalty. Stuttgart were good for their two-goal halftime lead.
Hanover were a team transformed in the second half, and in minute 57, Artur Sobiech made the score 2-1 after Stuttgart keeper Sven Ulreich could only parry a cross directly in front of his own goal.
Only seven minutes later, Diouf penetrated in the area and Serdar Tasci handled his shot. Jan Schlaudraff expertly converted to level things. Shortly thereafter Diouf and Mo Abdellaoue sprinted in tandem toward the Stuttgart goal. The latter slotted home to give the visitors an unlikely lead.
And in minute 73, Arthur Boka clattered into Lars Stindl - the result: another penalty. Abdellaoue did the honor this time, extending Hanover’s lead.
Stuttgart were in shock, and Hanover were satisfied. The visitors’ spectacular 4-2 win takes them up to sixth place, while Stuttgart plummet all the way down to twelfth. Such it is in the crowded middle regions of the Bundesliga table.
Foals edge by Fürth
Gladbach’s aim in Fürth was nothing less than three points against a team that had only collected a single point at home.
But the hosts grabbed the lead after 10 minutes. Oscar Wendt felled Gerald Asamoah in the box, and Bernd Nehrig converted the penalty.
Only two minutes later, Fürth defender Thomas Kleine got sent off for a professional foul, and in minute 22 Wendt made up for his earlier blunder with an equalizer.
Yet Gladbach seemed not to know what to do with their man advantage. Two minutes before the break, Edgar Prib on the counterattack benefited from some lackluster Gladbach defending. Fürth went into the dressing rooms up 2-1.
Gladbach coach Lucien Favre no doubt went ballistic in the interval, and the Foals came out with much more focus. Defender Martin Stranzl knotted things after 50 minutes, bundling home a headed-on corner.
Patrick Herrmann continued the Foals comeback on the hour mark. He crept into space at the far post and nodded in a cross.
After that the match settled into a holding pattern. To their credit, Fürth never gave up, but, short-handed, they lacked the means to unlock Gladbach’s defense. And just before time, midfielder Milorad Pekovic also saw red after handling the ball. Thorben Marx stepped up to finally seal the deal for Gladbach,
The 4-2 Gladbach victory moves the Foals up to eighth, while Fürth stay second-to-last, still with only one home point this season.