WOLFSBURG, Germany: Andre Schuerrle scored to send Wolfsburg to the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the first time on Tuesday with a 1-0 win at home over Belgian champion Gent.
Julian Draxler easily skipped past a defender and crossed for his fellow Germany international to seal a 4-2 victory on aggregate in the 74th minute.
Both sides were playing in the Round of 16 for the first time, and Wolfsburg is just the seventh team to have progressed at its first attempt.
“It’s sensational. We wouldn’t have believed it at the start of the season but now we’ve managed it,” said Wolfsburg sporting director Klaus Allofs, who was looking forward to the quarterfinal draw. “We’ll see. There are some big teams there, being honest, against whom it would be really difficult, but there are some others against whom we’d fancy our chances.”
The German side, which has been inconsistent in the Bundesliga this season, should have been in a commanding position after leading the first leg 3-0, but conceded two late goals to revive Gent’s hopes.
In Tuesday’s other Champions League game, Real Madrid comfortably progressed into the quarterfinals after it beat Roma 2-0. Two second half goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and James Rodriguez saw the Spanish side win 4-0 on aggregate.
Gent failed to really trouble Belgian goalkeeper Koen Casteels in the Wolfsburg goal, and seemed to miss the presence of injury-hampered forward Laurent Depoitre, who remained on the bench. The Belgium international had been suffering with back and stomach problems.
“I think you could say that over the two legs we were superior and that we deserve to go through,” Wolfsburg forward Max Kruse said. “We’ll see how far we get.”
Wolfsburg played conservatively and even drew whistles from some home fans before the break.
Schuerrle pushed forward early on only to be thwarted by a great last-ditch tackle from Rami Gershon, making his first Champions League appearance after recently returning from a long injury layoff.
Wolfsburg’s French midfielder Josuha Guilavogui almost opened the scoring in the 18th, when he drew a brilliant save from Matz Sels. Schuerrle went close from the resultant corner.
At the other end, Gent forwards Moses Simon and Danijel Milicevic were keeping Wolfsburg’s defense busy, but the absence of big forward Depoitre was telling, with no one in the center to profit from several fine crosses.
“There have been moments where we had the chance to score, but we did not take them,” Gent coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck said. “Nevertheless we performed well.”
The home side emerged with more intensity after the break, with Draxler firing over and Dante being blocked before Sels saved from Luiz Gustavo.
Milicevic missed Gent’s first real chance of the second half when he failed to direct his header on target in the 58th, before Schuerrle missed another opportunity at the other end.
The Germany forward might have sealed Wolfsburg’s progress with 20 minutes remaining but Gershon made another crucial block. Schuerrle made no mistake minutes later when Draxler cut the ball back.
“We knew that Gent needed to come forward, that we’d have to defend,” Schuerrle said. “Over the 90 minutes it was deserved because Gent didn’t have any 100 percent chances. I think both teams lost strength towards the end and that played into our hands.”