Wolfsburg 3-1 CSKA Moscow: Grafite Hat-Trick Powers The Wolfe To Victory

Wolfsburg2Having lost three consecutive league games, Armin Veh changed Wolfsburg’s tactical setup for today’s tie with CSKA Moscow. In his team’s maiden excursion into Champions League play, Veh sent out his team in a 4-3-3 formation, with Christian Gentner and Zvjezdan Misimovic supporting forwards Grafite, Edin Dzeko, and Obafemi Martins.

CSKA coach Juande Ramos, in his second match at the helm of the Russian side, used the same formation his team featured in last weekend’s 3-0 victory over Krylia Sovetov, but made several changes to his lineup. In midfield, Elvir Rahimic, Georgy Shennikov, and Milos Krasic replaced Pavel Mamaev, Daniel Carvalho, and Chidi Odiah, respectively. Up front, Guilherme replaced Czech starlet Tomas Necid.

In the early going, the visitors had a clear advantage in possession. Wolfsburg wide forwards Martins and Dzeko, being unfamiliar with life on the wings, were not always able to provide defensive support, and Wolfsburg looked a bit weak in the middle of the park.

Nonetheless, Wolfsburg were first to pose a goal-scoring threat. In the eighth minute, following a botched clearance, the ball fell to Christian Gentner’s feet. The German international struck from the edge of the penalty area, but highly rated CSKA keeper Igor Akinfeev saved with his feet.

For all their advantage in possession, CSKA were rather benign on the attack. Alan Dzagoev played a few clever balls forward, but Guilherme was generally absent, and the team clearly had need for more presence up front.

With CSKA unable to attack and Wolfsburg unable to possess the ball, the first half was generally lacking in attacking play. That is not to say that goals were not scored. In fact, Wolfsburg got on the board after 36 minutes with some ruthlessly efficient counterattacking play. After a Josue tackle in midfield, Misimovic won the ball and slipped a ball behind the CSKA defense. Grafite was first to the ball, and beat the onrushing Akinfeev to score his first career Champions League goal. It would not be his last.

Five minutes later, Martins hit a high cross that most likely would have been claimed by Akinfeev, but defender Deividas Semberas was adjudged to have tripped Grafite inside the box. The Brazil native stepped up to the spot and fooled the keeper as he tucked his shot into the bottom-right corner. Down 2-0, Ramos’ side had plenty of room for improvement in the second half.

After the half, Veh was content to stick with the same lineup that was successful in the first period. Despite being behind, Ramos also opted not to make any personnel changes.

Instead, Ramos breathed life into his team during the intermission. After the break, CSKA not only continued to win the majority of possession, but also began to look threatening. Rather than waiting for Dzagoev to do it all on his own, the whole CSKA team got involved in passing sequences. What’s more, the visitors’ precision on crosses and set pieces took a decisively positive turn.

With CSKA putting the pressure on, Veh brought on Karim Ziani for Martins in an attempt to gain some control of midfield. It wasn’t enough. Two minutes later, Milos Krasic flashed a cross in front of the Wolfsburg goal. With plenty of space, Dzagoev and Guilherme each missed the ball, and the visitors’ best chance of the day went begging.

Minutes later, Wolfsburg came close to punishing CSKA for their wastefulness, but Misimovic’s long-range effort curled inches wide.

But aside from Misimovic’s effort and a close call from Ziani, it was all CSKA. The Russians hit full stride after 70 minutes and it was only a matter of time before they pulled one back. They finally did in the 77th minute, when Dzagoev dribbled into the right side of penalty area and struck past Benaglio.

Despite having dug in defensively, Wolfsburg were always ready for a counterattack. Grafite was especially bullish, and completed his hat-trick three minutes of time following a cross from Marcel Schaefer.

With the result all but surely decided, CSKA were still up to the challenge of scoring. What happened in the closing minutes, however, was just a microcosm of the rest of the match. Two minutes from time, and just at the death, Dzagoev wasted a pair of excellent opportunities, the latter coming with an open goal.

The result puts Wolfsburg in first place, ahead of Manchester United on goal difference. CSKA go fourth, needing some serious improvement if they are to make it out of the group.

Goal

~ by footballdirecta on September 16, 2009.

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