The third to last week of play in the Bundesliga has opened with a scoreless draw. Neither Hannover nor Stuttgart really looked like breaking the deadlock in a dour relegation battle.
Goal-scoring chances were at a premium in the HDI Arena on Friday evening as the home side, Hannover 96 played host to VfB Stuttgart.
The teams went into the contest as neighbors in the league table, with Hannover in 14th and knowing that the three points from a win would ensure their survival in the top flight. Stuttgart's situation in 15th place was more desperate, and the Coach Huub Stevens' side were still some way off from safety, going into the match with just a four-point cushion above the relegation zone.
That may be why Stuttgart came out the more offensive team, with Daniel Didavi wasting a chance after six minutes.
Ten minutes later, Hannover goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler was forced to pick the ball out of the back of his net. However, unfortunately for Stuttgart and their supporters, Ibrahima Traore's "goal" was called back as it had been deflected by Cacau - who was clearly offside.
There was little in the way of offense from Hannover in the first half and they weren't helped by the loss of attacker Ya Konan, who had to be subbed off due to injury before the break.
In the second half, Hannover appeared more aggressive and did create a decent chance in the 48th minute, but Szabolcs Huszti missed the target.
Cacau missed a decent chance for Stuttgart five minutes later, but real opportunities would remain few and far between for the entire 90-plus minutes.
The best chance of the evening fell to Hannover midfielder Lars Stindl late in the match, but Stuttgart keeper Sven Ulreich pulled off a solid save on his point-blank shot.
Disappointment and optimism
Following the match, Stuttgart sporting director Fredi Bobic couldn't hide his disappointment.
"We can't really live with the single point," Bobic told German Sky TV. "We took the game to them the whole way. Now we'll have to do more at home against Wolfsburg. We are definitely still under pressure."
Hannover's keeper, Zieler, conceded that they didn't play great, but appeared to be convinced that the single point had saved them from relegation.
"This point was really important. We're definitely in the first division (next season)," he said.
Mathematically, this isn't quite right. But nevertheless, the single point did make it more likely that Hannover, who at least for the night moved up to the 11th spot, will be back in the Bundesliga next season.