Hannover 96 won their fifth consecutive match Friday evening, defeating VfB Stuttgart 2-1. The home win for the Hanoverians vaulted them into the lofty atmosphere of second place in the Bundesliga table, bypassing FSV Mainz 05 and Bayer Leverkusen, who play later this weekend. Didier Ya Konan was the hero for Mirko Slomka’s club, scoring the opening goal of the match in the 1st half and the game-winner in the 2nd half for his eight and ninth goal of the year.
Friday’s match was not one for textbook study, as both teams had their share of errant passes and weak clearances from the back. Despite the energy displayed by Stuttgart’s Cacau, Hannover was the team first on the scoreboard. In the 35th minute a long diagonal kick from Konstantin Rausch found a wide-open Manuel Schmiedebach. He wasn’t able to handle the ball well, but it bounced to Didier Ya Konan, who expertly netted past Sven Ulreich. Hannover 96 took the 1-0 lead into intermission.
The second half saw a bit more threat from Stuttgart, but they were unable to accomplish anything substantive until Timo Gebhart lifted a free kick into the Hannover box in the 74th minute. The kick found Georg Niedermeier, who edged in front of Hannover goalkeeper Florian Fronlowitz and equalized off the back of his head. Hannover’s dream of moving into second place looked in peril with only fifteen minutes remaining in the match. Momentum seemed to swing hard in Stuttgart’s favor, as Timo Gebhart stormed down the right flank after the restart and forced Fronlowitz into a save.
But enter again Hannover hero Ya Konan. Two minutes after Niedermeier had knotted the game, Hannover gained a throw-in down the left side of Stuttgart’s half of the field. Christian Schulz handled the throw in, which was immediately kicked back to him. Schulz delivered a quality chipped ball to a streaking Konan, and the diminutive attacker from the Ivorty Coast cruised in from the left and used his right foot to coolly slot past Ulreich for a 2-1 Hannover lead. Today’s brace gave Ya Konan a total of nine goals so far in the Bundesliga season.
Hannover’s defense withstood chances by Stuttgart substitutes Zradko Kuzmanovic, Pavel Pogrebnyak, and Johan Audel as the clock wound down. Ya Konan had a chance for a third goal, but his attempt in the last minute of regulation was smothered by Ulreich.
Hannover’s hold on the Bundesliga’s second spot behind Borussia Dortmund may only last a matter of hours, depending on the results Saturday of Bayer Leverkusen’s match at Hamburg and Sunday’s Mainz – Schalke fixture, but whatever those results, Hannover fans must be overjoyed to experience their perch at the heights of the table. Much credit goes to Mirko Slomka and his 96er players for winning again despite not playing at their best, but playing with enough flair and poise to take the three points.
For the Stuttgart club and its many followers, the story is more depressing. Coach Jens Keller’s club could end the weekend at the absolute bottom of the table, depending on how FC Koln fare against Nurnberg Saturday and Borussia Monchengladbach’s game at Freiburg Sunday. Stuttgart have only two points to show from their last five Bundesliga matches….not a ratio that will pull them out of the league’s bottom half. Although Stuttgart has demonstrated much-improved form in the second half of the past few seasons, there is nothing at the moment to indicate that Stuttgart are about to make a positive run up the table.
Notes: American international defender Steve Cherundolo was injured midway through the first half and was replaced by 27 year-old Tunisian international Sofian Chahed. Christian Schulz wore the captain’s armband in Cherundolo’s absence. Stuttgart outshot Hannover 22-16, but only forced two saves from Fronlowitz, whereas Ulreich was called upon six times. Stuttgart held a slight edge in possession.
Hannover Lineup: Fronlowitz, Pogatetz, Eggimann, Schulz, Cherundolo, Pinto, Schmiedebach, Rausch, Stindl, Schlaudraff, Ya Konan Subs Used: Chahed 23′ (for Cherundolo), Hanke 81′ (for Schlaudraff)
Stuttgart Lineup: Ulreich, Delpierre, Niedermeier, Boka, Degen, Gentner, Trasch, Gebhart, Harnik, Cacau, Elson Subs Used: Pogrebnyak 45′ (for Elson), Audel 66′ (for Gentner), Kuzmanovic 78′ (for Degen)
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