He would have been hoping for more after an early goal form Josip Brekalo, however first half substitute Yoshinori Muto equalised soon before the break.
Yunus Malli and Anthony Ujah missed the best chances for either side in a low-quality second half, with neither side getting the three points they would have wanted in this Bundesliga relegation scrap.
Early Brekalo goal cancelled out by Muto
Labbadia was appointed as Wolfsburg coach on Tuesday, a day after former Mainz boss Martin Schmidt resigned. He made four changes for his first game, with Sebastian Jung, Gian-Luca Itter, Maximilian Arnold and Renato Steffen coming out of the team beaten by Bayern Munich, with Paul Verhaegh, William, Riechedly Bazoer and Brekalo in. Mainz achieved a rare away win against Hertha BSC this time last week, and the only change from that game saw Alexander Hack replaced by Abdou Diallo, back from suspension.
The Wolves would give their new manager just the start he would have wanted. William, on the left, crossed in to Brekalo. He managed to get tangled up with a Mainz defender but recovered quickly to get his shot away, his first goal for the club, albeit his second of the season after scoring for VfB Stuttgart before the end of his loan spell there. There may have been a touch off his elbow, there was little question of it being disallowed.
Wolfsburg remained in control, with a Malli cross finding Divock Origi, although his header wasn’t directed on goal and Robert Zentner could punch the ball away. From the corner though, taken by Brekalo, Joshua Guilavogui powerfully headed the bar into the bar, with Robin Quaison unable to stop it coming in and grateful that the woodwork could intervene.
He did though come close to equalising at the other end, getting the ball through the legs of Jeffrey Bruma as he rushed through towards goal, however his shot was saved by Koen Casteels. Mainz were becoming more of a force in this game but for much of the first half they lacked the necessary quality, with Jean-Philippe Gbamin going wide, a Danny Latza ball going right across the face and Quaison again being denied by Casteels.
Mainz had lost Emil Berggreen to concession following a blow to a head, but that worked to their advantage as his replacement finally grabbed the equaliser just before half-time. Good passing across the field saw Gerrit Holtmann on the left whip the ball into the box. He found Muto, who didn’t make a clean connection with the ball but it was still enough to score, with the break coming soon after the restart.
Malli and Ujah have the big chances but it finishes all square
The second half started slowly and scrappily, and although Mainz were looking the brighter of the two sides, they couldn’t fashion many chances to go in front for the first time in the game. Suat Serdar did though have a chance, but he struck over after receiving the ball from Latza.
Former Mainz man Malli should really have put his side back ahead though just after the hour. Brekalo got the ball forward to him, and he had all the time and space he needed to prepare the put the ball past Zentner. That he did, but he didn’t get the curl he wanted on his effort and it went wide. A big chance wasted.
For large parts of the second half though, this game looked like exactly what it was – a side in third-bottom against a side only two places and a point above them. There was a distinct lack of quality, not to mention confidence, especially in the final third, for no lack of effort.
With time running out, Wolfsburg almost created something from nothing, with William finding Daniel Didavi on the left, and his shot catching out Zentner before colliding into the post. Latza then had a shot at the other end, but managed to put it wide. The big chance in stoppage time fell to Mainz, as an attempt from Pablo de Blasis was deflected into the path of late substitute Ujah. Casteels did superbly to block his shot though, enough to ensure Labbadia’s reign would start with a draw.