VfL Wolfsburg were shown up defensively and for inexperience by an SSC Napoli at the peak of their game as reporter Matthias Rötters analyses the 4-1 away win.
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Wolfsburg problems at back
VfL Wolfsburg's attacking qualities are not in doubt: 62 goals in 28 Bundesliga matches (behind only FC Bayern München on 74), 22 goals in 11 UEFA Europa League matches – that's more than OK. However, the 4-1 quarter-final first-leg home defeat by SSC Napoli showed once again that Dieter Hecking has to improve Wolfsburg's defensive play if the side seemingly destined to finish second in the Bundesliga are to be contenders in the UEFA Champions League next season. "We made mistakes today, which we normally don't make," goalkeeper Diego Benaglio said.
The boys in green are too green
Wolfsburg have youth on their side but Kevin De Bruyne (23), Kevin Knoche (22), Ricardo Rodriguez (22) and Josuha Guilavogui (24) are lacking in terms of European experience, while the likes of Bas Dost, Naldo, Daniel Caligiuri and Vieirinha have not been playing at the highest level in recent years. This lack of experience shows in matches against 'big teams' with 'big names' from the 'big leagues'; against Everton FC they lost 4-1 and 2-0, and the Napoli defeat was even worse.
Napoli can win in Germany
"It's a nice birthday present for me and a historically good thing for our club as well," said Napoli coach Rafael Benítez as he turned 55 on the day of the Wolfsburg game. It was Napoli's first UEFA competition win in Germany, and a deserved one. Benítez said: "They created some chances, but we created even more and managed to score from them. I'm really happy with the way my team played. It's good for our confidence as well."
Higuaín and Hamšík are Champions League-standard
Gonzalo Higuaín and Marek Hamšík are one of the most dangerous strike partnerships in Europe. Against Wolfsburg they converted the first two chances in the game, pretty much deciding the tie. The Argentinian is now on seven goals in this season's UEFA Europa League, with the Slovakian on four. Against Wolfsburg, it was obvious that both started the season in the UEFA Champions League (Napoli lost out to Athletic Club in the play-offs) and are still at that level. World champion André Schürrle said: "Those two players made the difference today. If you give them too much space, they will score. That's it."
Napoli favourites for Warsaw glory
Napoli's success away to the team second in the Bundesliga has surely established them as favourites to triumph in Warsaw next month. "Our journey is not finished yet," said Benítez, no stranger to success in UEFA club competition. His side is defensively very strong, conceding an average of under a goal every two games, and are joint top scorers in the competition. "They were defensively compact and offensively ice-cold today," said Wolfsburg manager Hecking.