Borussia Mönchengladbach took care of business against Wolfsburg with a routine 3-0 victory to keep their slim Europa League hopes alive. Three first-half goals from Lars Stindl, Raffael and Cristoph Kramer was enough for the home side who were never threatened by a poor Wolfsburg side.
There was only one change for both clubs, Josip Drmic making way for Lars Stindl for Dieter Hecking’s side, John Anthony Brooks replacing the suspended Felix Uduokhai for Bruno Labbadia’s men.
Gladbach got off to a great start and took an early lead. The ball found its way to Stindl after a scramble and he held off Robin Knoche in the area before smashing it past Koen Casteels into the top corner.
John Anthony Brooks picked up a booking after taking out Stindl and continued to walk a tight line with some marginal challenges.
The home side almost doubled their advantage as Nico Elvedi cut inside and released Denis Zakaria, the midfielder laying the ball off to Stindl who saw his effort saved by Koen Casteels.
Jannik Vestergaard found himself unmarked at the penalty spot from a corner but headed over as Labbadia had seen enough. Brooks was sacrificed for Marcel Tisserand and joined Maximilian Arnold in midfield as Wolfsburg abandoned the three man defence for a regular 4-2-3-1 formation.
Raffael and Stindl were combining well as the hosts made it 2-0. Vestergaard’s long ball found Jonas Hoffman in a dangerous position, the winger held off Paul Jäckel and made space for the shot, Casteels saved but only as far as Raffael who fired into the bottom corner.
Mattias Giner then found Thorgan Hazard with a long ball, the winger taking a nice touch but unable to produce a shot. Stindl was all over the pitch as usual, making a tackle to stop Yunus Malli after a Wolfsburg fast break.
Hoffman was fouled by William in a dangerous position and as Casteels was trying to set up the wall, Christoph Kramer stepped up and passed the ball into an open net. The goal stood despite protests from the visitors as the teams went into half-time break with the game as good as over.
Wolfsburg tried hard to pull one back after the break, Malli getting involved and Daniel Didavi pushing up field but nothing was coming off. Riechedly Bazoer had a tame effort at Sommer and Didavi saw his shot blocked but it wasn’t looking promising for the Wolves.
Hoffman went on a great solo run beating three or four player but with the goal at his mercy, Casteels produced a wonderful save to tip it wide. Renato Steffen replaced Bazoer and Divock Origi came on for Landry Dimata but it made little difference.
With Kramer trying party tricks an angry and frustrated Arnold finally picked up the booking he was after with Hecking able to use the occasion to introduce some of his long lost casualtees.
Ibrahima Traore came on for the first time since October and László Bénes returned to action after last appearing in Matchday 2. There was even time for Tobias Strobl to get five minutes of action as the home crowd celebrated the easy win.
It doesn’t get any easier than this for Gladbach who put in a professional performance in the first half to wrap up the victory. Stindl was fantastic yet again, so difficult to contain as he has the freedom to roam across the pitch and get involved when he sees fit.
A tough trip to Schalke awaits Gladbach next week as they chase a top seven spot which will guarantee Europa League football next season. This performance should give them confidence of getting a result.
Wolfsburg are walking a fine line and need to pick up some points if they want to avoid a relegation play-off. They desperately miss Ignacio Camacho and Joshua Guilavogui as they simply can’t control midfield and had no chance tonight against Zakaria and Kramer.
The Wolves host Hamburg next weekend and will need to be more creative and dangerous in attack. They look out of ideas with very little threat up front apart from some magic from Didavi.
By Matthew Marshall.