VfB Stuttgart blew a gilt-edged chance to go back to the top of the Bundesliga on Wednesday night after leading ten-man Werder Bremen for most of a match they eventually lost 2-1.
Bremen substitute Nelson Valdez sunk Stuttgart with the winning goal
After starting the season in such fine form, going eight games unbeaten, VfB Stuttgart will be looking back on that run and wonder where it all went wrong. For in as little as five days, their record has not only been halted but in a fashion that suggests Matthias Sammer's team lack the mettle to be serious title challengers.
After losing to Freiburg at the weekend, a visit from the champions was just the test this young Stuttgart side needed to prove their desire for the title. And for most of the game against Werder Bremen, they did just that.
With Alex Hleb once agin running the midfield and Cacau and Kevin Kuranyi looking dangerous and hungry up front, Stuttgart built the best of the play in the opening exchanges, reducing Bremen to counter-attacks on the break. VfB swarmed forward in numbers and looked solid enogh defesively to deal with any Werder breaks that threatened to crack the white wall.
Bremen stage comeback of the season
But in the end it was the German champions who produced the goods, staging the comeback of the season to beat Stuttgart 2-1 with the visitors scoring twice in the final 12 minutes despite being reduced to 10 men.
German international Miroslav Klose and Paraguayan ace Nelson Valdez struck in the closing stages to turn the match on its head and shock the home fans.
Stuttgart went ahead on the stroke of half-time.
Stuttgart looked to be heading for victory and a return to the Bundesliga summit after French debutant Mathieu Delpierre put the hosts ahead in the 45th minute.
Bremen's Swiss international Ludovic Magnin was then dismissed in the 66th minute for pulling back Christian Tiffert and things look bleak for the visitors.
Deft backheel starts revival
Miroslav Klose brought Bremen back into the game with a touch of class.
But Bremen showed they will not surrender their title without a fight with Klose netting his seventh goal of the campaign in the 78th minute with a deft back heel. Substitute Valdez then leapt highest to power home the winner three minutes later in a hectic spell.
Bremen move up to third and are now just three points behind leaders VfL Wolfsburg.
For Stuttgart it completed a miserable week with their unbeaten record torn apart with successive defeats. Matthias Sammer's men still remain second in the German ladder but have let Bayern Munich and Bremen make up lost ground.