Zvjezdan Misimović's tremendous finish ensured VfL Wolfsburg will go into the second leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie against FC Rubin Kazan full of confidence.
Both these sides are chasing maiden European quarter-final appearances and Christian Noboa's header gave Rubin the initial edge in an open encounter. But good work from Wolfsburg goalkeeper Marwin Hitz and Misimović's 67th-minute intervention means Rubin will have plenty to do in Germany next Thursday to eliminate their fellow former UEFA Champions League contenders.
The orange ball was out on a freezing Kazan night and it took ten minutes for the game to warm up, with Edin Džeko testing Rubin goalkeeper Sergei Ryzhikov from a tight angle. At the other end a Noboa free-kick eluded the Wolfsburg defence but was headed wide by Aleksandr Orekhov.
Play was moving from end to end and Obafemi Martins seemed set to put Wolfsburg ahead but sliced his shot after Ryzhikov had only parried the lively Misimović's effort. Within a minute Rubin had the lead, Cristian Ansaldi's cross from the left headed back by Hasan Kabze for Noboa to nod in. Not long afterwards Hitz had to produce a point-blank save from Aleksandr Bukharov, scorer of the only goal in Rubin's Russian Super Cup defeat of PFC CSKA Moskva on Sunday.
Hitz was in action again not long after the interval, denying Kabze, and in keeping with the open nature of the game, Wolfsburg then came close to a goal themselves, Misimović's effort from wide dropping onto the crossbar. The Bosnian international got his angles exactly right with 23 minutes left, delivering a perfectly-weighted curling shot that left Ryzhikov helpless following Džeko's lay-off. Misimović struck the bar again with a free-kick and from the following corner, Martins so nearly beat Ryzhikov.
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