The KAA Gent manager had said his underdog squad needed “a miracle” ahead of their second leg match away at VFL Wolfsburg this evening to have any hopes of Champions League progression.
Unfortunately for the traveling contingent, there was to be no such thing, as a late André Schürrle strike dashed any hopes of a fairytale ending for the Belgian side.
KAA Gent’s Champions League dream may be over, but they go home with their heads held high having already reached uncharted territory in the competition.
For Wolfsburg, the 1-0 result also has historical bearing. Having held the cards after a 3-2 away win at Gent’s Ghelamco Arena in the first leg, they go through to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals for the first time ever.
If the performance of the German side was far from spectacular, it was at least ruthlessly efficient. For all of Gent’s enterprising football, it was Wolfsburg that claimed the game’s only goal — the exciting talent Julian Draxler wriggling free on the right, before putting it on a plate for his German compatriot.
The first goal was always going to be decisive, and so it proved.
Even so, it was Gent that started the game most confidently. Pressing heavily in the opening stages, Dejaegere and Milicevic ensured Wolfsburg manager Dieter Hecking was true to his pre-match comments that he “couldn’t afford to relax.”
The Germans looked shaky early on, and the swashbuckling runs from mercurial Nigerian forward Moses Daddy Simon looked a prime avenue of attack.
Before the match, Laurent Depoitre had been labeled as the Belgian team’s foremost threat — but with the striker only fit enough to make the bench, a gaggle of Premier League scouts reportedly in attendance were left disappointed.
Moses Simon more than made up for Depoitre’s absence, advancing menacingly on the left side on numerous occasions.
The underdogs were playing with width and courage. Indeed, they dominated the ball, enjoying almost 60% of the possession in the first half.
Still, they were unable to make the breakthrough. And, as the clock ticked, Gent’s initial hope begun to fade.
Wolfsburg grew into the game. Having initially been content to protect their slender advantage, Hecking pushed his fullbacks forward in the closing stages.
Max Kruse, Josuha Guilavogui and Ricardo Rodriguez all went close for Germans, and eventually the pressure was just too much for Gent.
With the goal came a 4-2 aggregate lead. Game over.
Had Gent scored first, there could have been real belief, a dramatic shift in momentum, and the start of a special comeback. As it was, Schürrle’s strike had Die Wolfe purring into the quarter finals.