A stunning strike from VfL Wolfsburg’s Yunus Malli settled a humdrum Nordderby against Hannover 96.
The hosts were uninspired despite being on top of the match, until Malli struck with just under 20 minutes left of the match.
It was just Wolfsburg’s fourth Bundesliga win of the season, with Hannover losing at home for only the second time in the current campaign.
Osimhen and Füllkrug closest to scoring in disappointing first half
Hannover have still been going along nicely on their Bundesliga return, and following the 1-1 draw with Schalke 04 last Sunday they made just two changes, with Josip Elez and Martin Harnik replacing Julian Korb and Ihlas Bebou. Elez was making his first appearance since joining from HNK Rijeka on loan earlier in January. Wolfsburg, beaten 3-1 at home by Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend, made six changes. Robin Knoche, Jeffrey Bruma, Yannick Gerhardt, Daniel Didavi, Victor Osimhen and Renato Steffen were the men brought in.
The home side made the most of the early running but Wolfsburg had the first chance of the match. Malli turned Salif Sané on the left, crossing into the box. Osimhen, who along with Steffen was making his first Wolfsburg start in the absence of both Divock Origi and Landry Dimata, met the cross with his head however Philipp Tschauner parried the ball away from danger.
The rest of the first half chances would fall to Hannover, not that they ever had Wolfsburg goalkeeper Koen Casteels worried. The Belgian did have to save a shot from Felix Klaus, although there was little power on it. Meanwhile Niclas Füllkrug came closer when he headed wide from a corner, with a further effort later on earning him no more than a corner.
This looked very much the mid-table clash that it was, and the final ten minutes summed up a rather drab first half. Harnik had one last opportunity for the hosts just before the break, looking to volley in an Oliver Sorg cross, but Füllkrug was right behind and the Austrian was unable to get a clean hit on the ball.
Malli magic lights up the HDI Arena
The stalemate continued into the second half. In the end Sané decided to test the Wolfsburg goal from distance, and although he wasn’t too far off Casteels was untroubled. Steffen then nearly found Malli with a cross, however Sorg got ahead of the Wolfsburg man to intercept.
Hannover still looked the most likely to score, but their efforts were not the most inspiring. Further chances came and went as a Harnik cross was struck at Casteels by Iver Fossum, with the keeper again called into action to prevent Füllkrug scoring. He initially spilled the spot, but had a chance to claim the ball at the second attempt.
The game was crying out for a piece of magic, and it was provided by Malli. It came from pretty much nowhere – Marcel Tisserand found him, he took aim, and sent it bound for the roof of the net. Tschauner had his hands up to deal with the incoming ball, yet even then he was powerless to stop the shot from passing through.
Wolfsburg were on the brink of their first away win since August, and Hannover, try as they might, did not have the invention to be able to stop them from managing it. The one big chance for them fell to substitute Bebou, who struck into the crossbar, whilst Klaus also had a shot blocked. The Wolves though saw the result out to put breathing space between themselves and the five teams behind them in the Bundesliga table.