Just how did Wolfsburg defeat Real Madrid 2-0? Surprise selections, a team ethic and fine home form helped switch off the 'BBC' and inspired the victory, reporter Paul Bryan explains.
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As he cast his gaze over the journalists gathered at Wednesday night's post-match press conference at the VfL Wolfsburg Arena, home coach Dieter Hecking smiled and said: "Yesterday I looked into your faces and nobody believed me. But you see, everything is possible in football." Yet just how did the 51-year-old mastermind his team's 2-0 success against ten-time European champions Real Madrid? UEFA.com analyses the quarter-final first leg.
The element of surprise
Signed from Brazilian side Goiás in January as cover for injured forward Bas Dost, Bruno Henrique had made just five substitute appearances in the Bundesliga prior to Wednesday. That the 25-year-old was given a first start on his UEFA Champions League debut while also playing in a deeper role stunned many, not least Madrid.
"Bruno Henrique was one of the key players tonight," Hecking explained. "We wanted to surprise Madrid with his selection and the plan worked because he played really well – not just in attack but also in defence."
If Bruno Henrique's inclusion raised eyebrows, the same could be said of central defender Naldo, whose season was deemed over after the 31-year-old needed surgery to repair a damaged shoulder last month.
The Brazilian is one of Wolfsburg's leaders and he made it clear to his coach that he was fully fit and eager to face Madrid. However, it still made for a brave decision on Hecking's part to start Naldo for the first time since 27 February.
Compact and disciplined in their defensive 4-5-1 formation while direct and quick when counterattacking in a 4-2-3-1, Wolfsburg rarely wavered on a night when hard work reaped rewards for the hosts. "We knew if we played as a team, we would have a chance against really big opponents," goalkeeper Diego Benaglio told UEFA.com.
Vieirinha agreed, saying, "We didn't allow Real Madrid's stars space. I know nobody expected this result, but we knew we were capable of winning if we played with a togetherness."
CSKA Moskva, PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, Gent and now Real Madrid have all lost UEFA Champions matches in Lower Saxony this season, with Wolfsburg extending their 100% home record in the competition. "In the players' minds, we feel unbeatable at home," Vieirinha said.
For Benaglio – who made several crucial saves – the latest European win at the VfL Wolfsburg Arena came with the added bonus of a clean sheet. "The fact Madrid didn't score tonight means we will have a big chance [to advance to the semi-finals] if we score an away goal," the Swiss international said.
"After Madrid's early goal was ruled out, I initially thought: 'Oh god, what's going to happen here tonight?'" Maximilian Arnold explained after Cristiano Ronaldo netted from an offside position in the opening two minutes. "But following that, we got to grips with our opponents," the midfielder added.
An off night for Madrid's attacking trio of Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema certainly aided Wolfsburg's cause, but few would deny the Bundesliga side were deserved winners. "We now have the chance to knock Madrid out of this competition and we will use every opportunity they give us," coach Hecking said ahead of Tuesday's return.