Minute-by-minute report: Wolfsburg led 3-0 and almost made it four, but Gent woke up in the final 10 minutes, scoring twice to keep the tie alive before next month’s second leg in Germany. Alan Smith watched it.
But Gent’s Sven Kums scored from 18 yards in the 80th minute and Kalifa Coulibaly, with a close-range header, made the game still closer nine minutes later – meaning that new life has been breathed into the Belgian side’s prospects of causing another big shock in the competition.
Wolfsburg defended high from the start and harried Gent’s midfield throughout, belying the host side’s robust home reputation. Draxler, though, made all the difference. In the 44th minute, he first swivelled around a defender and sprinted down the left sideline before working a perfect one-two with Vieirinha and finishing the move off with a low shot past Matz Sels.
His second goal, in the 54th minute, was perhaps even better. Latching on to a bad backpass, he beat the last defender, Stefan Mitrovic, with a ball through the legs before chipping over Sels into the empty net.
It was an important payoff from Wolfsburg’s most expensive player and also showed his promise for the German national team. Draxler was brought in after Kevin De Bruyne moved to Manchester City, but the German side has been struggling for much of this season and is currently eighth in the Bundesliga.
Still, Draxler’s performance showed that a struggling team in the German league still presents a massive challenge for a Champions League newcomer like Gent. Regardless, Wolfsburg were frustrated with the late goals that left Gent still with an outside chance in the return game. “We shifted a gear back,” said Draxler. “That was our mistake.”
The Belgian champions were euphoric about reaching the knockout stage, but struggled from the kick-off. Gent, who won their first league title last year, have charmed everyone with open attacking play but, even though Wolfsburg’s defence was hit by suspension and injury, they were only able to thrill the home fans at the 20,000-capacity Ghelamco Arena in the last 10 minutes.