1. FC Union Berlin went down to Wolfsburg on Saturday with Josip Brekalo scoring all three goals for the Bundesliga's third-placed team.
The Croatian put Wolfsburg ahead with a solo-inspired effort before adding two goals after the half-time interval to make sure the three points stayed at the Volkswagen Arena.
Wolfsburg: Casteels; Mbabu (Gerhardt 71), Lacroix, Brooks, Octavio; Arnold, Schlager; Brekalo, Baku, Philipp (Guilavogui 81); Weghorst
1. FC Union Berlin: Luthe; Trimmel (Ryerson 75), Schlotterbeck (Gießelmann 68), Knoche, Friedrich, Lenz (Bülter 68); Gentner, Griesbeck; Ingvartsen (Endo 45), Musa (Kruse 68), Pohjanpalo
1. FC Union Berlin faced an immediate setback when Rob Andrich was injured in the warm-up. The midfielder was replaced by Sebastian Griesbeck – one of three changes to the starting XI as Julian Ryerson and Max Kruse dropped out for Christopher Trimmel and Petar Musa. Andreas Luthe pushed away a shot in the second minute as Wolfsburg started with zip and intent. Oliver Glasner's team have pushed into third place and will expect to see out this season in the same position to secure a spot in next season's Champions League. At the heart of their success has been their defensive organisation – conceding the second lowest number of goals in the Bundesliga. Wolfsburg snuffed out any hint of an Union threat with Glasner's team breaking down Urs Fischer's side with a phase of real quality. On 12 minutes, Maxi Arnold found Ridle Baku and the winger picked out Brekalo on the edge of the box. The 22-year-old from Zagreb did the hard work on the edge of the 18-yard-box, curling an outstanding effort high into the net. Luthe kept the game alive as a contest in the first part of the opening 45 minutes, making some important interventions at the most decisive moment. Wout Weghorst shot into the side-netting when up against Luthe who forced the Dutch striker to aim for the tightest of angles. Minutes later, the 34-year-old keeper pulled off an excellent save against Maximilian Philipp. Putting the first 30 minutes to one side, Union grew into the contest and managed to put some pressure on Koen Casteels' goal. Joel Pohjanpalo twisted away from the green shirts, forcing Casteels into action and landing a shot just off target. Referee Sven Jablonski pointed out for a corner kick and Marvin Friedrich headed over from close range. Less than a minute later, Friedrich rose above Maxence Lacroix to head Marcus Ingvartsen's free-kick wide.
After sustaining a knock to his foot in the first half, Ingvartsen didn't return from the dressing room after the break. Keita Endo was handed his spot on the left-hand side and Union started in a more positive fashion than the first. Trimmel drove with the ball into an advanced position, cross early in his traditional style but Kevin Mbabu cleared at the back-post to prevent Musa from scoring. Musa led the charge on 50 minutes as Union tried to make the most of any gaps in the Wolfsburg defence. On this occasion, John Anthony Brooks was on the deck, leaving space for Musa but Lacroix did extremely well to recover and clear the danger. As Glasner's team recognised the danger of an equaliser, they pushed higher up the pitch and that led to a more end-to-end period around the hour mark. In the 56th minute, Pohjanpalo ran half the length of the park and hit the post – frustratingly before the assistant referee flagged for an offside at the start of the move. About 100 seconds after the 61st minute eventually decided the destination of the three points: Baku missed an opportunity to set up Weghorst for an easy number two for the Wolves, while Musa should have equalised after finding a few yards of space in the box. The missed chance to equalise was punished by the home side with Brekalo striking past Luthe with the aid of a wicked deflection off Christian Gentner's boot. To have any chance of taking a point or three, Fischer looked to his bench and made three switches – Max Kruse, Niko Gießelmann, Marius Bülter came on for Musa, Christopher Lenz and Nico Schlotterbeck. Julian Ryerson's introduction with about 15 minutes to go gave Trimmel the chance to rest some legs after a good shift on the right-hand side. Weghorst, who has 20 goals to his name this season, blazed over and passed up the chance to pile on more misery with 10 minutes to go. In the end, Wolfsburg played the closing stages with experience and concentration and were able to rack up a third as Josip Brekalo completed his hat-trick from close range. Union's late push for European football is not over yet. Fischer's team head to Bayer Leverkusen next Saturday, another six-pointer in the hunt for international competition next season.