Billed as a decisive relegation six-pointer, Werder Bremen trounced Stuttgart, scoring six times to move out of the bottom three. Fin Bartels netted a brace, while Levin Öztunali turned the game in favor of the hosts.
Werder Bremen 6-2 Stuttgart
(Bartels 10', 80', Barba o.g. 34', Öztunali 42', Pizarro 64', Ujah 86' - Didavi 26', Barba 53')
Concerns of fan boycotts were brushed to one side as Werder Bremen bashed Stuttgart 6-2 to take an important step towards safety in the Bundesliga's first Monday night encounter in 16 years.
A Fin Bartels brace helped Viktor Skripnik's side tear Stuttgart to pieces in the final half hour, opening up a one-point advantage above the relegation zone with just two games remaining. The first for the former St Pauli forward Bartels was as simple as it got after Claudio Pizarro did all the hard work outside the box after nine minutes.
Stuttgart continued to threaten in forward areas, despite going behind. On 16 minutes, Filip Kostic raced in behind the Bremen defense, but his speculative effort clipped the top of the crossbar without troubling Felix Wiedwald. Stuttgart's endeavors were rewarded after 25 minutes, however, when Alexandru Maxim's cut back was collected by Didavi, who drilled his shot into the bottom corner.
Stuttgart's abysmal defending this season has been like a gremlin waiting to pop up and derail any sign of progress. Coach Jürgen Kramny, who handed a debut to Matthias Zimmermann at right-back, has seen his side concede more goals (63) than any other side in the league this season, other than Bremen. If a synopsis of Stuttgart's decline was required, Bremen's second goal on 34 minutes was particularly apt.
A comical lapse in concentration from Przemyslaw Tyton and Federico Barba saw the Italian's header loop embarrassingly over the Polish goalkeeper, who had left his line with the aim of clearing the bouncing ball. The Swabians wrote a new page in Bundesliga history in the process, conceding their record seventh own goal of the season.
Levin luck shines
An injury to Sambou Yatabare forced the 27-year-old off after 36 minutes, and he was replaced by Öztunali. The winger turned the screw for the home side, buoyed by the superb atmosphere generated in the Weser-Stadion.
The 20-year-old, on loan from Bayer Leverkusen, was a menace between the lines, pursuing every possible bit of space to cause confusion in the Stuttgart defense. Six minutes after his introduction, his close control in the box forced the Swabians to back off before maneuvering the room to net his first goal of the season.
While Stuttgart gained some solace from Barba's goal on 53 minutes, Kramny's side were never in contention for the victory. Öztunali was close to restoring the two-goal cushion three minutes later before Pizarro claimed his 14th of the season - number 12 since the end of the winter break - to put the hosts on easy streak.
Inevitably, it became easier for the River Islanders as their opponents visibly looked beaten and resigned to defeat. Öztunali showed a compulsive energy to rub salt into the wounds and the winger turned Emiliano Insua inside-out, assisting Bartels for his eighth goal of the campaign with 10 minutes to play.
Substitute Anthony Ujah came off the bench to add a sixth on 86 minutes. The Nigerian, who scored for the second week running, then hit the post in stoppage time as Bremen threatened to embarrass the visitors even further.