Borussia Mönchengladbach keep European hopes alive with win over Wolfsburg | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 20.04.2018
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Borussia Mönchengladbach keep European hopes alive with win over Wolfsburg

Dieter Hecking demanded attacking football and that's precisely what Borussia Mönchengladbach delivered in a comprehensive 3-0 win over Wolfsburg. The Foals have not given up hope of returning to Europe.

"Given the history of Borussia Mönchengladbach, sometimes boredom isn't such a bad thing," said Gladbach coach Dieter Hecking at the club's annual general meeting earlier this week.

That probably didn't to go down too well with supporters who remember the glory years in the 1970s, when the famous Fohlenelf won five Bundesliga titles and reached four major European finals, winning two UEFA Cups. Europe is in Borussia Mönchengladbach's DNA.

Next May will mark 40 years since the second of those UEFA Cup triumphs, and following a dominating 3-0 win over relegation strugglers Wolfsburg, there's still a chance that this current Gladbach team will have European adventures of their own to look forward to next season. 

Read more: Lars Stindl - It feels special every time I walk on the pitch

Having only won three games this calendar year and coming off the back of a 5-1 thrashing in Munich, the Foals went into Friday night's game six points off the seventh placed finish which would likely qualify them for the Europa League.

Variety and flexibility 

Still, Hecking, who was backed explicitly by sporting director Max Eberl at the AGM, saw no reason for wholesale changes.

"You have to keep doing what you believe in," he told broadcaster Eurosport pre-match. "We're playing at home and we want to attack with variety and flexibility."

Given his side's recent drab performances, Gladbach supporters could be forgiven for rolling their eyes. But in the first half at Borussia Park, the Foals produced precisely that.

Gladbach's pressing was aggressive and their attacks varied and full of pace. Midway through the half, Nico Elvedi threaded a perfect ball into Zakaria who cut inside before playing a return pass to the overlapping Lars Stindl. The Gladbach captain's shot was deflected wide but the free-flowing move typified his team's approach.

Variety was Hecking's buzzword and variety is what he got. Stindl's early opener after an expert turn in the box demonstrated his goal-scoring instinct, while the second from Raffael came after Jonas Hofmann had brought down a long ball from Jannik Vestergaard in the box. Just before halftime, variety turned into complete surprise. Taking advantage of a lapse in concentration in the Wolfsburg defense as Casteels organized his wall to face a free-kick, Christoph Kramer quickly slotted the ball into the empty net.

Such was the confidence running through the team that Stindl even attempted to lob Koen Casteels from inside his own half.

Fußball Bundesliga Borussia Mönchengladbach - VfL Wolfsburg (Imago/J. Huebner)

Christoph Kramer celebrates after his quick-thinking free-kick made it 3-0

Woeful Wolfsburg

But as impressive as Gladbach were, the defensive pantomime summed up a desperately poor Wolfsburg performance. Once Bundesliga runners-up and German Cup winners under Hecking, the Wolves now find themselves slipping ever closer to a second consecutive relegation play-off.

Backed by a pitiful 280 travelling supporters, Bruno Labbadia's side couldn't cope with the hosts' pressing and movement. Center-back John-Anthony Brooks was substituted for his own safety after picking up an early yellow card and left-back William was at fault for the second goal.

"It was an abysmal display," said midfielder Maximilian Arnold. "We all need to have a think about the rubbish we've served up here and show a different side to us against Hamburg next week."

European dream alive

For Borussia Mönchengladbach, this was the perfect response to some of the difficult questions posed at the club's AGM where demands from supporters for "mentality, will and passion" had been met with loud applause. They got more than that on Friday night; they also saw aggression, pace and ingenuity.

"I'd rather mediocrity than a relegation battle," Hecking had said, defensively. Only Wolfsburg will have to worry about that.

For Gladbach, performances like this might yet be enough to see them return to Europe, where the club believes it belongs.

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