There’s no denying that juggernaut VfL Wolfsburg have been playing some of their best football this season.T he German champions have looked unbeatable, but when they had the chance to go five points clear at the top of the table, they stumbled for the first time this season.
With FC Bayern München having come second for the last three seasons in a row – the Bavarians playing second fiddle to Wolfsburg – they were favourited to spend another season as the bridesmaids to Wolfsburg’s brides once again this campaign. Yet, having lost a sizable chunk of their squad over the summer as well as long-term coach Thomas Wörle, Bayern have looked off the pace this year.
Six points behind Wolfsburg and third in the standings (behind second-placed TSG Hoffenheim) coming into the match, Munich’s chances of silverware were fast slipping through their fingers. In the DFB Pokal last weekend, they had been soundly beaten by Wolfsburg knocking them out of the cup before Christmas. Worse still, the former German champions have been drawn against Olympique Lyonnais in the Champions League quarterfinals, leaving them with a slim chance of reaching the last four.
With second-placed Hoffenheim having dropped two points on Friday night [in a sloppy match away to FFC Frankfurt], the She Wolves had the chance of widening their gap at the top of the table. And when it came to the clash of the only two full-time teams in Germany on Saturday, the hosts took an early lead in Lower Saxony, a poor pass from Kathrin Hendrich all the incentive Alex Popp needed to run in and lash the ball home.
Like all the games Wolfsburg have been part of this season, the German powerhouse created chance after chance, dominating the ball with an unwavering ruthlessness. But for only the second time in the league this season, the champions failed to add a second goal to their tally for the year (currently at 43 in 10 matches). The team with no response when Sydney Lohmann robbed Ingrid Syrstad Engen of the ball in midfield, taking it forward before playing in Mandy Islacker and letting the striker send the ball home.
The 13 minutes left of the clock should have been more than enough for the team who’ve had 13 different goalscorers in the league (and 17 in all competitions) so far this season, yet the hosts still sagged when it came to clinical finishing. And, for the first time in 18 league matches – a run stretching back to last February – Wolfsburg failed to win.
The complexion of the table however stays the same with the Wolves top, Hoffenheim three points adrift and Bayern a further three behind, three points clear of SGS Essen in fourth.
Keeping it interesting
Yet there is a positive upshot from the draw: had Wolfsburg gone five points clear of [part-time] TSG and nine clear of FCB, the title race would be all but over less than half way through the season. The draw does at least keep things semi-interesting on that front for now but more importantly, it shows that Wolfsburg can be beaten. Or can, at the very least, drop points.
Wolfsburg are so used to rampaging their way through the Frauen-Bundesliga, the match may give the champions pause for thought, but it will certainly give their fellow teams renewed belief that they can square off against the top dogs and take something, even at the AOK Stadion. After all, Islacker’s goal wasn’t borne of a sublime passage of play from the visitors, it was Lohmann forcing an error after a Wolfsburg goal kick.
Just like Lyon drawing with Dijon FCO last month, Wolfsburg have reminded the footballing world that they have weaknesses and slip ups just like all teams, their 100% record no more.