Athens (AP) – By conceding a goal in injury time, VfL Wolfsburg missed its re-entry in the Europa League. The Bundesliga club lost their third and final qualifying match at AEK Athens despite a 1: 2 (1: 0) lead at half time.
Swiss national player Admir Mehmedi gave the “Wolves” the lead with the last action of the first half (45th + 1 minute). But after the break, Portuguese André Simoes hit a shot from 30 meters (64th) and Iranian Karim Ansarifard just before the final whistle (90th + 4) for the twelve-time Greek champion. Despite the victories over FK Kukesi and Desna Tschernihiw in the first two preliminary rounds, VfL can now only watch the draw for the twelve Europa League groups next Friday.
“We are all very disappointed,” said VfL coach Oliver Glasner. “It is incredibly bitter when you get 2-1 in the last action. We really wanted to win the game in regular time and were then countered.”
Wolfsburg could have fallen behind early in this game. But in the 20th minute, substitute Pavao Pervan saved a penalty from AEK captain Petros Mantalos. According to Portuguese referee Artur Dias, Xaver Schlager had previously made a mistake with Serbian Nenad Krsticic. However, there is no video evidence that could confirm this dubious Europa League decision.
The Austrian Pervan again represented the injured Koen Casteels in Athens. Otherwise, coach Oliver Glasner changed his starting line-up again because of the many games in these weeks. Before the last Bundesliga game at SC Freiburg, there were eight changes, this time there were six again.
The match suffered from host country Athens being very hesitant even in their home stadium and VfL barely knowing what to do with their field advantages. The Greeks left their best striker Marko Livaja on the bench, the “Wolves” lacked any penetrating power in the other half. Opportunities such as for Paulo Otavio (8th) or Maximilian Arnold (25th) were very scarce.
After the lead, VfL actually had the game under control. In terms of play, the performance remained poor and very poor, but the Bundesliga team sought the decision rather than just defending the narrow lead. The 1: 1 equalization fell surprisingly, after the 1: 2 the Lower Saxony could no longer respond. AEK even missed the support of its many fans that night. Because the European association UEFA did not allow spectators, at least in the qualifying rounds, the Olympic Stadium with its capacity of more than 69,000 seats remained empty.