Julian Draxler starred in Wolfsburg's 3-2 win at Gent but told UEFA.com: "Today I was very lucky that it was as it was," while home captain Sven Kums stated "you saw his quality".
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There were several noteworthy performances in Wolfsburg's 3-2 UEFA Champions League round of 16 first-leg win at Gent.
Sven Kums worked tirelessly and deserved his 80th-minute goal to put Gent back in the game having gone three down. Vieirinha and Max Kruse caused problems for the home defence all night. But, ultimately there was one player who made the difference between the teams – Julian Draxler.
The 22-year old midfielder scored twice. both times with an almost unnatural calm. and his general awareness and touch were excellent. His signing in the summer to replace the Manchester City-bound Kevin De Bruyne always looked like a shrewd piece of business, and he certainly demonstrated his worth this evening.
"I think this was an important match for Julian in terms of his self-confidence," said Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking. "He also realises that he has to prove himself anew with each match."
Hecking described both Draxler's goals as "classy", and they certainly were. The first stemmed from an exquisite turn on the touchline that created space for him to surge towards the box, exchange passes with Vieirinha before nervelessly placing the ball past Matz Sels.
His second was even better; pouncing on a loose pass from Renato Neto he nutmegged Stefan Mitrović before dinking a finish over the Gent keeper. Both goals required speed of thought, balance, imagination and a cool head.
Typically, Draxler himself played down his contribution. "I try to do my best, and today I was very lucky that it was as it was," he told UEFA.com. "Hopefully I can score again in the second leg and help my team."
He also admitted to having slightly mixed feelings about the result. "We're not happy that we conceded two goals in the last minutes, but I'm still very optimistic," Draxler said.
"We knew how they would play. We produced very good football for 70 minutes but the game lasts for 90, so in the return match we have to do our best over 90 minutes and then I think we'll go through."
"Draxler played well tonight," said Gent captain Sven Kums. "We analysed him, just like the other players, but you saw his quality. We still have a little chance after those two late goals, but it will still be difficult there. Maybe if we score first they will start doubting. And we don't give up, that’s our strength, so who knows ..."