Quick match summary
On Friday evening Stuttgart’s trouble winning at home and in general continued as they lost 3-2 to Borussia Dortmund in front of a sold out crowd at Mercedes-Benz Arena. A successful PK conversion by Florian Klein and a stoppage-time goal from Georg Niedermeier weren’t enough to earn the Swabians even a point against their once-struggling visitors from Dortmund.
The proverbial nail in the coffin came in the 88th minute when Timo Baumgartl’s pass back to Sven Ulreich did not have enough juice behind it, leading to a sprinting Marco Reus to steal possession. Ulreich was helpless as Reus nonchalantly ran by the diving goalie and touched it into the back of the net for a 3-1 lead. A viewer could only hope that coach Jürgen Klopp stretched before the match so as not to pull an oblique or arm muscle from all those excessive fist pumps in the freezing cold.
The back four for Stuttgart broke down often but are they at fault when the offense provides two shots on goal for an entire match? Baumgartl has struggled of late but he will find his confidence again soon. It was clear to anyone watching that he took the mistake harder than anyone. Many Stuttgart fans stayed after the match to console him. He is only 19 and has had a rough couple of weeks. It is only magnified because of team issues far deeper than a young promising defender. He will be fine.
About to score a goal in the 32nd minute, Stuttgart defender Niedermeier had his legs kicked out from underneath him a few feet from the goal by Dortmund defender Nuri Sahin. Stopping a clear goal opportunity is generally an automatic red card. The head referee felt Stuttgart was impeded and awarded them a free kick, but for some strange reason issued no card to Sahin whatsoever.
VfB Sporting Director Robin Dutt said after the match “I don’t know how the referee didn’t give a red card there. Sometimes these decisions are very strange. And garbage!” Ok I might have added the last sentence. But it is true. At times, it seems as though the referees are hesitant to discipline the more popular teams. One wonders if a Stuttgart player’s legs were kicked out by say, a player from SC Paderborn, if the ref would have issued a red.
Serey Die starts
All things considered, I thought new acquisition Geoffroy Serey Die did well in his starting debut. His presence on the field is a positive one for the team. The former FC Basel man seems to really enjoy his new role as a starter and a teacher to his many young teammates. Serey Die has been very vocal and active in practice since joining the team two weeks ago so it was no surprise to see him directing traffic during the match. The first fifteen minutes of the match felt like Stuttgart had a little more energy than usual. The most obvious difference was Die and the speed/quick passing combination he brings to the team.
This was the Ivorian’s first full week of practice with the team. He had one practice the previous week before playing a few minutes at the end against Hoppenheim on Valentine’s Day. He will become further integrated into the lineup with each passing week and increase Stuttgart’s chances of winning late season matches.
Players speak with ultras
Following the match against Dortmund, many of Stuttgart’s players went over to the Ultras section for direct contact with the avid fans. The tone of discussion was not tense. Frustrations were vented to the players and vice versa, but it was an excellent meeting and everyone left on good terms. “We have assured them that we will do everything to ensure that VfB remains in the Bundesliga,” said Alexander Meier.
It is now clear to the team and all observers that Stuttgart fans are strongly behind Die Roten. “This will help them in the next few weeks a lot,” said Dutt of the fan support. Dutt mentioned that he knows what he is talking about after experiencing similar situations and avoiding relegation both at Freiburg and Werder Bremen. “Twice it worked because the whole side held together.”
Small post-match fan scuffle
German federal police had to be called in to defuse a situation at a pub in Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt. Per the police report, at 11:30pm a BVB Dortmund fan positioned himself in the foyer of the pub and started provoking Stuttgart fans. After some arguing back and forth, the BVB fan raised the stakes and punched a VfB fan in the face. When this happened, two other Stuttgart fans threw a chair toward the BVB fans. The police were able to calm the situation down without any further disruptions.
Next match: Hannover 96
Stuttgart travels north this week to face Hannover 96 during Saturday’s batch of Bundesliga matches. Hannover is the only other team besides Stuttgart to have not won in their last five matches. Stuttgart won the previous meeting between the two in October 1-0. Although Hannover is currently in 10th place, they are only four points above the relegation playoff spot. A loss to Stuttgart after losing at home to Paderborn on February 14th could spell the end for Hannover coach Tayfun Korkut.
Team notes: Florian Klein’s goal after the 32nd minute penalty ended a streak of 586 scoreless minutes for Stuttgart at home….Serey Die received his first yellow card in the Bundesliga during the second half for an aggressive tackle….Team captain Christian Gentner did not play due to a one-game suspension for receiving his fifth yellow card of the season. He will be available next Saturday….With Gentner unavailable, forward Martin Harnik was the designated team captain….Lefty midfielder Daniel Didavi turned 25 last week and is still rehabbing from multiple leg injuries. No word on when he will return to the pitch….Midfielder Carlos Gruezo returned Friday following a multi-week long absence. His rust showed at times and was eventually pulled for Moritz Leitner in the 56th minute… Timo Werner became the youngest player in Bundesliga history to reach the 50 game milestone in league play, at 18 years, 11 months and four days, breaking the record previously held by Schalke’s Julian Draxler.
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