VfL Wolfsburg have secured their Bundesliga status, with Robin Knoche scoring the only goal as they beat Holstein Kiel 1-0 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate.
Divock Origi had a goal disallowed in the first half, however Kiel had the better of the game but like in the first leg they failed to take their chances.
Knoche’s header then made the play-off safe, whilst a consolation for Kiel was disallowed for handball on VAR. It means that only two 2. Bundesliga sides have won the Relegation play-off since it was reintroduced for the 2008-09 season.
Kiel giving reprieve but can’t get back in the game
Wolfsburg held the advantage from the first leg, when they had out-classed Kiel, however they had also looked vulnerable at the back, and were lucky not to concede more than one as Kiel failed to make the most of numerous chances later in the game. The Wolves though were unchanged for the away leg, whilst Kiel made three chances – there was no Dominic Peitz, Steven Lewerenz or Dominick Drexler, who had looked most at home against the Bundesliga side but missed this game with a thigh problem. Alexander Mühling, Tom Weilandt and Aaron Seydel started in their place.
Wolfsburg had an early sight of goal, as Ohis Felix Uduokhai headed wide a Maximilian Arnold free-kick, whilst another from a similar position was bundled away from danger by Kenneth Kronholm. However the hosts showed signs of promise in the early stages as well. A Marvin Ducksch volley went wide after he hit it into the ground, but Seydel came much closer – after good work on the ball, he struck through the legs of William but the shot went barely inches wide of the post.
Kiel would have been left with a truly uphill task if Wolfsburg could cancel out their away goal, and 16 minutes in, they thought they had done just that. A quick move saw Joshua Guilavogui find Yunus Malli in space in the area, and he slotted in effortlessly. Kronholm though had been unsighted by the position of Origi, who was also offside. Thus, the goal was disallowed once the VAR was consulted.
The hosts weren’t able to make the most of that lifeline though, despite continuing to play well for much of the half. They were given the perfect opportunity when Uduokhai fouled Patrick Herrmann on the edge of the box, but Rafael Czichos wasted the free-kick by putting it straight over. David Kinsombi also had a shot saved by Koen Casteels in stoppage time after a good team move, but they came no closer.
Knoche had meanwhile gone wide for Wolfsburg, whilst Origi meanwhile had a shot from distance saved by Kronholm and Herrmann did well to force Josip Brekalo, the start of the first leg, into a tight angle and shoot over the bar when he had looked in a good position to score. With the game still goalless at the break though, they would have been the happier team.
Knoche the hero for Wolfsburg
Kiel started the second half confidently as well, but still they weren’t able to get a goal. Ducksch failed to take advantage of another opportunity as he gave Casteels an easy save with a shot. Seydel tested him more, after a cross from Herrmann, but the Belgian goalkeeper, named in his country’s provisional 2018 FIFA World Cup squad on Monday, managed to put the effort over.
They kept plugging away but without little reward, lacking the necessary quality in the final third of the pitch, whilst Wolfsburg frustrated them with time-wasting tactics, with Bruno Labbadia’s side almost content to play out the 0-0 draw to secure their Bundesliga status.
Kronholm was finally given something to do when he put wide a shot from Arnold, but there was nothing to be done by the keeper for what happened next. Arnold took the corner, and Kinsombi found Uduokhai in his way. That allowed Knoche an unmarked header, allowing him to place it past Kronholm and finally give Wolfsburg a vital goal, leaving Kiel 15 minutes to score three.
The tie was almost put completely out of reach when Arnold played through Origi, but he could only shoot wide. Kiel looked flat, but after substitute Manuel Janzer won a corner, they thought they had a goal. Ducksch’s corner was flicked on by Peitz, and Czichos thought he had bundled it in when his arm turned it on to William and into the back of the net. VAR didn’t let him get away with it though, and like Wolfsburg in the first half, they had a goal disallowed.
That was their last flourish, as five minutes of stoppage time came and went before Wolfsburg could celebrate surviving the ‘Relegation’ for a second season in a row, without ever having to move through the gears. They will be still be in the Bundesliga next season, with or without Labbadia in charge, whilst Kiel, who wave goodbye to 1. FC Köln-bound Markus Anfang, will look to avoid the Relegation hangover that always hits the sides that lose this match.