First-half goals from Ricardo Rodriguez and Maximilian Arnold earned the quarter-final debutants a win that leaves Madrid with plenty of work to do.
Wolfsburg’s first UEFA Champions League knockout campaign could yet extend into the semi-finals as first-half goals from Ricardo Rodriguez and Maximilian Arnold earned a memorable victory against Real Madrid in the quarter-final first leg.
Madrid were on a six-game winning run and duly began in confident mood, Cristiano Ronaldo having an effort chalked out for offside before Karim Benzema burst through in the 14th minute. Diego Benaglio’s outstretched boot came to Wolfsburg’s rescue, Gareth Bale slicing the rebound wide.
The home side made the most of the let-off. Eighteen minutes in André Schürrle was felled by Danilo and Rodriguez stepped up to convert the penalty, ending Keylor Navas’ 738-minute run without conceding in the UEFA Champions League.
With his side behind for the first time in this season’s competition, the Madrid goalkeeper was beaten again seven minutes later. Julian Draxler found Bruno Henrique on the right and Arnold got ahead of Sergio Ramos to sidefoot in at the near post, putting Wolfsburg well on the way to making it five wins from five home games this season.
Karim Benzema headed wide as a stunned Madrid sought a response, Benaglio dealing smartly with a subsequent Toni Kroos effort. Madrid’s hopes were further knocked when Benzema limped off before the break, and they continued to struggle to create clear openings.
Indeed, Wolfsburg might have made it three as they broke out following a brief flurry of Madrid pressure, Henrique leading the counterattack. The Brazilian found Schürrle on the right with only Navas to beat; the shot flashed over.
Madrid came again and Isco cleverly found Ronaldo with the outside of his right foot; the Portuguese looked certain to add to his 13 goals in this season’s competition but Benaglio blocked. At the other end, Navas plunged to his left to keep out Max Kruse’s effort to keep alive Madrid’s hopes, but Wolfsburg will travel to Spain full of hope.
Key player: Maximilian Arnold
Arnold may have had his tongue in his cheek when suggesting “6-0” would be the ideal result for Wolfsburg to take to Madrid for the second leg, yet there were times when the hosts looked like running away with the game. The 21-year-old’s first UEFA Champions League goal put Die Wölfe 2-0 ahead said that facing Madrid represented a dream come true. He can now dream of a place in the semi-finals after his pace and direct running tormented Madrid.
Unrecognisable from the team beaten 3-0 by Bayer Leverkusen last weekend, Wolfsburg produced another inspired home performance in the UEFA Champions League, a stage Die Wölfe have more often than not excelled on this term. Orchestrating with intensity from the sidelines, Dieter Hecking – who gave a competition debut to Bruno Henrique and recalled Naldo to his starting lineup after injury – looked exhausted at the end. The coach’s ‘contain and counterattack’ plan worked to perfection and bewildered Madrid, who must find solutions for next Tuesday’s return.
A frustrating night for Madrid’s front three of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, the French forward going off with a first-half injury. A hard week on the training pitch beckons as they seek to find ways of unlocking Wolfsburg’s tight defence.