It hasn't been a good year for Stuttgart who lost their first four matches in the second half of the season. But against fellow strugglers Hoffenheim, they were able to take home all three points with a nervy 1-0 win.
Stuttgart entered the match still smarting from a listless draw at home with Belgian side Genk in the Europa League. For host Hoffenheim, this was a chance to narrow the gap on fifteenth place.
But the team that looked more motivated at Sunday's start was Stuttgart. Before three minutes had passed, Martin Harnik was allowed to control the ball far too easily in Hoffenheim’s half. He passed to Ibrahima Traoré, who blew past Andreas Beck and crossed the ball back for Harnik. The Austrian national nodded home to give Stuttgart a nerve-settling lead.
The first twenty minutes or so were all Stuttgart, with Hoffenheim allowing their guests to fire shots at will from the edge of the penalty area, But Stuttgart were lulled down to Hoffenheim’s level as the first half wore on, and Joselu was somewhat unlucky not to equalize just before the break.
In the second half, Hoffenheim had the better chances. Striker Joselu was sent through twice, but Stuttgart keeper Sven Ulreich got in the way on both occasions. All told, it was far too listless a performance for the hosts, if they want to have any chance of escaping the bottom three this season. Stuttgart was able to preserve the 1-0 scoreline with relative ease.
"If you have eight players in the team who fail to perform up to their usual level, then it's a very bad sign for the coming matches," Hoffenheim commercial manager Andreas Müller fumed after the match.
“It’s obvious that we can only concentrate on staying in sixteenth place,” coach Marco Kurz said. “After going down 1-0 like this, that’s all we can do.”
The result takes Stuttgart up to twelfth in the table. Meanwhile Hoffenheim have a massive ten-point gap from Wolfsburg in fifteenth place - a sad situation for a team that wanted to challenge for the top six this season.
See-saw early match
Coming off a bad loss in the Europa League midweek, Hanover fielded a very attacking line-up with three nominal center forwards in Nuremberg. It was the hosts, though, who had had more of the ball early on. Around the 20-minute mark, Hiroshi Kiyotake had an open look on goal, but he curled his shot well wide.
Instead it was Hanover taking a first-half lead against the run of play. Szabolcs Huszti broke the ice in minute 40. Neither defender Timm Klose nor keeper Raphael Schäfer will be completely happy with their performance, as the Hungarian found the net.
Hanover were the better team after the restart, but Nuremberg equalized in minute 52. Klose made like his more famous namesake Miro and headed in a free kick from Kiyotake.
That goal seemed to take the wind completely out of Hanover's sails, but the next also came against the run of play. The hosts were dominated, but they gave the ball away deep in their own half. Mo Abdellaoue picked out Didier Ya Konan in the middle, and Hanover were back in front.
The away team was unable to finish a counterattack, although it looked for a while as though that wouldn't be necessary. But, seconds before the visitors would have booked only their third away win of the season, Sebastian Polter scored the 2-2 equalizer in injury time.
"It's the third time after the games against Mainz and Düsseldorf that we've dropped points at the last second," fretted Hanover coach Mirko Slomka to reporters. "That makes me mad. It's preventing us from getting into the upper regions of the table."
Hanover are eighth in the table, while Nuremberg stay in the lower half of the standings.