BRUSSELS >> Julian Draxler scored two classy goals to lead Wolfsburg to a 3-2 away win over Champions League newcomer AA Ghent in the Round of 16 on Wednesday.
At 22, Draxler confirmed himself as the new creative force of a team which had been struggling, scoring just before and just after halftime in the first leg match.
On the hour mark, Max Kruse finished off another smooth move with a goal that made it seem like the second leg would be little more than a formality.
But Ghent's Sven Kums scored in the 80th minute and Kalifa Coulibaly made the game even closer nine minutes later.
Wolfsburg defended high from the start and harried Ghent's midfield throughout, belying Ghent's robust home reputation.
Draxler made all the difference. In the 44th minute, he first swiveled around a defender and sprinted down the left sideline before working a perfect one-two with Vierinha and finishing the move off with a low shot past Matz Sels.
His second goal, in the 54th minute, was perhaps even better — latching on to a bad back pass, he beat the last defender, Stefan Mitrovic, with a ball through the legs before chipping over Sels into the empty net.
It was an important payoff from Wolfsburg's most expensive player and also showed his promise for the German national team. Draxler was brought in after top player Kevin De Bruyne moved to Manchester City, but the team has been struggling for much of this season and is currently eighth in the Bundesliga.
But Drexler's performance showed that a struggling team in the German league is still a massive challenge for a Champions League rookie like Ghent.
Still, Wolfsburg was frustrated with the late goals which left Ghent still with an outside chance in the return game. "We shifted a gear back," said Draxler. "That was our mistake."
The Belgian champion was euphoric about reaching the knockout stage, but on Wednesday it struggled from the kickoff.
Ghent, which won its first league title last year, has charmed everyone with open attacking play but even if Wolfsburg's defense was hit with suspension and injury, it was only able to thrill the home fans at the 20,000-capacity Ghelamco Arena in the last 10 minutes.
In the night's other first-leg match, Real Madrid was a 2-0 winner at Roma.