The first-leg of the Bundesliga 1 promotion/relegation playoff between the top-flight’s 16th place finisher VfL Wolfsburg and the Second Division’s surprise third place finisher Holstein Kiel took place in Wolfsburg on Thursday.
The difference between the two clubs in terms of size and stature could hardly be any greater. The Wolves are recent UEFA Champions League quarterfinalists and German DFB Cup winners.
Not to mention that they are still heavily financed by Volkswagen, the automobile giant headquartered in their city.
Kiel is a tiny club by comparison. Last year they gained promotion to Bundesliga 2, where they have since played their way to third place, with impressive attacking soccer. It could have easily been second place and direct promotion, were it not for a long slump of form after the winter break.
In any case, neither Kiel nor any other team from their state of Schleswig-Holstein has ever reached the top league of German soccer. Instead the sport of handball has long been king in the area.
Holstein Kiel’s stadium is so small, that they will need a special permission from the DFL (German Soccer League governing body) to play their Bundesliga 1 games there, in the case of promotion.
Furthermore, we already know that their current coach Markus Anfang will join 1.FC Cologne starting next season.
The story of the first match itself is easy to tell. Both teams played positive soccer and so the team with more class, came out victorious.
Wolfsburg’s Liverpool loanee striker Divock Origi gave the Wolves the early lead. Kiel’s Kingsley Schindler scored the potentially priceless away goal for his team, before Josip Brekalo and Yunus Malli created the 3-1 final score on the night for Wolfsburg.
Holstein had good opportunities and would have deserved a second goal for themselves. But as it is, they will still need at least a 2-0 home victory in the second leg to gain promotion. That is still plausible, given the underdogs’ strong record in their stadium.