It’s been a miserable season for VfB Stuttgart, indeed a miserable last two seasons for the Swabians, but hope for the barest of relegation survivals (bare survival occurred last season) now truly exists after Stuttgart gained a rare home win in downing fellow-relegation battler Hamburger SV 2-0 Saturday. Only their third home win of the season, the three points lifted Huub Stevens’ club to the 16th spot in the table following all the week 33 action as the also pushed HSV downwards towards their possible first-ever relegation from the Bundesliga. Veterans Christian Gentner and Martin Harnik were the goal-scoring heroes for the Swabians.
But it was the red-shorts who struck first, as the match took on an ugly appearance for the home fans. Just twelve minutes in, a Rafael van der Vaart FK was emphatically headed in by Serbian midfielder Gojkan Kacar, lately one of the very few Hamburg players able to find the back of the net. The 28-year-old made his HSV debut in 2010, but played 12 games for Cerezo Osaka in 2014, and certainly HSV supporters were glad to see his 3rd goal of his last three matches.
VfB captain Christian Gentner equalized in the 27th minute, when his low shot from the right nutmegged Rene Adler, a strike which uplifted the downtrodden Stuttgart fanbase. Gentner nearly put Stuttgart ahead moments later, but this time a diving Adler pawed the ball away. But redemption was on its way, as Stevens’ club earned the lead when Martin Harnik, the Hamburg-born Austrian international, swung his left foot on a bounced ball right in front of goal, connecting to beat Adler and score what was to eventually be the game-winner in the 35th minute. For the beleagured Harnik, who has experienced some tough luck in finishing this season, it was his team-leading 9th goal of the season.
Chances for a third Stuttgart goal went begging during the contests’ 55 minutes, while HSV, for their part, had little to offer despite their improved performances under former Stuttgart coach Bruno Labbadia. Red-shorts defender Johan Djourou made a fine effort to eliminate a Daniel Ginzcek tap-in, while Adler and the woodwork combined to stop a Filiip Kostic effort. A frustrated HSV, so close yet so far, earned six yellow cards in the second half to the one accumulated by the home side. The statistics underlined the superior performance on the day by the Swabians, as they led in CKs 9-2, while outshooting the visitors 22-7 and completing 66 more passes. Stuttgart held 54% of possession. Daniel Didavi led VfB with seven shot attempts, while Pierre Lasogga, with two shots, was the only HSV player to attempt more than one.
Following the match, Gentner commented
We performed very well and we are naturally very relieved. We now have a direct final ahead of us. We are now in a position that we have our fate in our own hands in the last game. That’s something that not many would have believed we were capable of. We knew we couldn’t allow any slip-ups against Hamburg. We didn’t allow their opening goal to stress us out, we were in charge for the entire game and we let nothing more through at the back. Next week is the third consecutive game in which everything is at stake. We will have to invest a great dea
With one match remaining in the 2014/2015 Bundesliga season, it’s all there for Stevens and company, as they hold their own survival fate in their hands as they play their final game away to endangered SC Paderborn 07.
Stevens guided the Swabians to survival last season, but the other relegation-strugglers helped considerably by consistently dropping points down the stretch. This season sees a relatively healthier group of strugglers, with HSV earning seven of nine possible points in the last three weeks, SC Freiburg upsetting a suddenly-struggling Bayern Munich on Saturday and Hannover earning its first win of 2015 at Augsburg, Even newcomers Paderborn still have hope following positive results on Matchdays 30 and 31.
As 2014/2015 heads to a grateful close for a Stuttgart team that has been so inept, frequently squandering leads, the ability to score goals consistently in recent weeks has provided some comfort for supporters. But no doubt every supporter at the Mercedes-Benz Arena Saturday held their breath, hoping and praying that Stuttgart could hang on. If the Swabians do survive and remain in the top division for next season, an honest re-appraisal of coaching and roster will be necessary to change the club’s fortunes — whether the team lacks fitness, chemistry or is just not overall talented enough to successfully compete, it has undoubtedly been a painful experience supporting the Swabians over the last two seasons.
VfB Stuttgart: Ulreich – Schwaab, Baumgartl, Rüdiger, Klein – Serey Dié (90. Romeu), Gentner – Harnik (85. Werner), Didavi (78. Maxim), Kostic – Ginczek
Hamburger SV: Adler – Westermann, Djourou (90. Holtby), Rajkovic, Ostrzolek – van der Vaart, Kacar – Ilicevic, Olic, Jansen (64. Stieber) – Lasogga (58. Rudnevs)
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