Wolfsburg’s Grafite scores hat trick in Champions League debut

VfL Wolfsburg got off to a winning start on their Champions League debut in Group B as Brazil striker Grafite scored a hat trick to seal a 3-1 win over Russian side CSKA Moscow on Tuesday night.

Wolfsburg's Grafite scores hat trick in Champions League debut
Photo: DPA

The German champions brushed off defeats in their last three league games to begin their campaign in style, but the night belonged to Grafite.

“It’s a great, unbelievable feeling to score a hat-trick on your Champions League debut,” beamed the Brazilian. “I have to thank my team-mates for providing me with the opportunity, but it has been a great night for the club.”

The hosts will face bigger challenges ahead in their quest to get out of Group B, where they are also up against 2008 champions Manchester United and Turkish champions Besiktas – who were beaten 1-0 at home by United – but they had few problems here at the Volkswagen Arena.

“It was not exactly an intoxicating match to watch, but that was part of the plan,” said Wolfsburg coach Armin Veh. “We didn’t want to deliver a spectacle, we wanted to put in a good defensive performance and win. We were the better team, we created and took a few good chances and deserved to get the victory.”

The Wolves got the early breakthrough they needed when playmaker Zvjezdan Misimovic put Grafite in the perfect position and the Brazilian drilled his shot through the legs of Moscow goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev on 36 minutes.

The Brazil hot-shot then slotted home a 41st minute penalty after he was held back in the penalty area by Moscow defender Deividas Semberas by his shirt and he scored with his spot-kick.

Moscow pulled a goal back when Russia defender Alan Dzagoev smashed home his shot past Wolfsburg goalkeeper Diego Benaglio on 77 minutes. But the night belonged to Grafite, the Bundesliga’s top scorer last season, when he put the result beyond doubt by netting after being set up by Marcel Schaefer in the 87th minute.

It was a bad European start for Moscow’s former Tottenham and Real Madrid manager Juande Ramos, who replaced Brazilian legend Zico as coach of the Russian side last weekend. The Spaniard, 54, has been out of work since his contract at Real expired at the end of last season.

Both sides are next in action again when Wolfsburg travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United on September 30, while Moscow are home to Besiktas the same night.

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EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for attending German football matches

The German Bundesliga kicks off on Friday evening with a match in Mönchengladbach. Here's a run-down of the Covid rules for football fans itching to join the crowds at the stadium.

EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for attending German football matches
Crowds cheer at a match between FC Kaiserslautern and Borussia Mönchengladbach, on August 9th, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uwe Anspach

All eyes will be on Mönchengladbach this evening as the Bundesliga season kicks off with a match against reigning champions Bayern Munich – and this time, a crowd will be present in the stadium.

READ ALSO: German football fans get green light to return to stadiums next season

With several states liberalising their rules for public gatherings in recent months, many football fans are looking forward to enjoying a lively atmosphere at football matches once more. 

There’s just one problem: there are different rules for different stadiums. Here’s what you need to know about the Covid rules before you book your ticket for any of the upcoming fixtures. 

How many fans are allowed in the stadiums? 

According to a recent decision by the federal and state governments, football stadiums around the country are allowed to fill half of their seats and sell up to 25,000 tickets to fans. 

Of course, how much this limit affects the overall atmosphere – and the football clubs’ bottoms lines – depends on the capacity of the stadium. In Borussia Dortmund this weekend, the full 25,000 tickets have been sold – but that only equates to 30 percent of the stadium’s full capacity.

READ ALSO: German football: Which Bundesliga club should I support?

Meanwhile, in the stadium owned by Berlin’s FC Union, selling just 11,000 tickets is enough to fill half of the available seats. 

What do I need to show to get in? 

That really depends on the stadium in question, although in general anyone over the age of six will need to show a negative test or proof of vaccination or recovery – the so-called ‘3G’ rule – to enter the grounds. But other clubs, such as FC Cologne, have decided to only permit people who are vaccinated or recovered to attend matches from August 28th onwards – with exceptions for people who can’t get vaccinated, like children and pregnant woman.

At Mönchengladbach’s Borussia Park stadium, however, unvaccinated fans can enter with a negative test, though visitors who’ve stayed in a high-risk or virus variant area over the past two weeks will be unable to enter – along with people who’ve had recent contact with someone who has Covid. 

If you want to see action like this at FC Cologne’s stadium, you’ll need to get your Covid jabs sorted first. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund has taken a middle ground. While the 3G rule applies in principle, only 1,000 of the available 25,000 tickets will be sold to people who are providing a negative test. The remaining 24,000 seats will only be available for those who are vaccinated against – or recently recovered from – Covid. 

If you’re not vaccinated and are keen to see a match, it’s worth checking on your local club’s website beforehand or sending them an email to double-check whether you will be allowed in. 

What else do I need to know about? 

You’ll need to bring a FPP2 mask with you to matches to wear in your seat and while heading to the bathroom or bar, and also observe social distancing rules – meaning staying 1.5 metres apart from your fellow fans.

In most states, you’ll also need to provide your contact details, which will be saved by the club and potentially passed on to local health authorities in order to monitor a potential Covid outbreak. 

Will these rules continue throughout the season?

That’s still an open question. If infection rates in Germany continue to rise or high-profile superspreading events occur at future matches, the government could potentially crack down further on sports events in autumn.

This could involve limiting the seat numbers even further, or (more controversially), introducing a ‘vaccinated-only’ rule for entering stadiums. 

READ ALSO: Should Germany bring in Covid restrictions for unvaccinated people only?

A recent outbreak of Covid in the Mainz football team has also dampened celebrations slightly in the run-up to the start of the Bundesliga – leaving club owners urgently calling for both fans and footballers to get vaccinated. 

Speaking to WDR ahead of the season’s start, FC Cologne’s managing director Alexander Wehrle said widespread vaccination was the best route back to normality – a message reiterated by Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann.