Real Madrid’s dream of an 11th Champions League title is in serious peril following a 2-0 defeat to Wolfsburg in their quarterfinal first leg at the Volkswagen Arena in Wolfsburg.
Ricardo Rodríguez converted an 18th minute penalty and Max Arnold added a second in the 25th minute to give the Germans the shock victory.
As impressive as Wolfsburg were, Real were astoundingly poor. Zinedine Zidane’s back four was an absolute shambles as the hosts’ counterattack completely made mincemeat out of Marcelo, Pepe, Sergio Ramos and Danilo.
In attack, it was a night in which Real lacked any impetus, with Gareth Bale hardly getting any touches in space, Cristiano Ronaldo lacking a finishing touch and Karim Benzema pulling up with a first half injury.
It actually started with promise, as Ronaldo thought he had given Real an early goal, firing home just 74 seconds in, but the linesman’s flag was raised, nullifying the Portuguese’s strike much to his dismay.
Wolfsburg’s strategy was clear: Sit back, invite Real to send numbers forward and then try to hit the visitors on the break. One such chance arose in the first quarter hour as Julian Draxler’s run looped a cross into Bruno Henrique, who headed right at Real No. 1 Keylor Navas.
Minutes later Wolfsburg again got into the Real area and this time it bore fruit as Casemiro brought down André Schürrle to give Wolfsburg a penalty. Rodríguez stepped forward and converted the spot kick to give Wolfsburg a 1-0 advantage. It was also the first Champions League goal that Navas had ever conceded.
Wolfsburg could sense the vulnerability of the Real back line, and to the astonishment of everyone, Wolfsburg doubled their lead to 2-0, as Henrique found a completely unmarked Arnold and it was an easy stroke into goal for the Wolfsburg midfielder.
The Wolfsburg goals left Real dazed, but soon enough they regrouped and looked to make inroads before the break. Benzema should have done better on a header right after the half-hour mark, and his night soon got worse as the Frenchman had to leave the pitch with an apparent leg injury.
Real needed to make a response in the second half, but outside of a few moments after the re-start, there was little doing from Zidane’s men. Meanwhile, Draxler and Henrique voraciously ate up any chances to run at Real down the wings.
A 3-0 lead was there for the taking for Wolfsburg when Henrique crossed from the left for Schürrle, but instead of hitting it one-time, the former Chelsea man took an extra touch and sent a rushed shot over the crossbar.
Real’s frustration started to boil over, as the pushing and shoving increased between the two sides as the second half wore on and the protestations from Gareth Bale and Ronaldo on any perceived foul grew louder. Still, there were chances to snatch a precious away goal, but Ronaldo could not finish a one-on-one chance versus Wolfsburg goalkeeper Diego Benaglio.