A courageous second half comeback from VfB Stuttgart saw them come out 2-1 victors over Eintracht Frankfurt. Stefan Aigner gave Frankfurt the lead on 16 minutes, as he got on to the end of a terrific through-ball from Pirmin Schwegler, and slid the ball past Sven Ulreich one-on-one. Pirmin Schwegler then turned from hero to villain early in the second half as he brought down Arthur Boka in the area giving away a penalty, which Vedad Ibisevic successfully converted. Georg Niedermeier completed the comeback with a header midway through the second half and sent Stuttgart home with all three points.
Despite their contrasting league positions (Frankfurt 4th, Stuttgart 15th), both teams were severely lacking form going into this match, however Stuttgart went into this game having won five of the last seven fixtures between the two sides and had not lost any of the last seven visits to the Commerzbank-Arena.
Frankfurt had not scored in 504 minutes of Bundesliga football, the longest goal drought of any team in the top flight this season, and their last win was six games previous in their 2-0 away win in Hamburg on the 2nd of February. However, their early-season form has kept them still in serious contention for a Champions League spot with 39 points after 25 games, with Schalke 04, Hamburger SV, Mainz 05 and Freiburg all missing the opportunity to leap-frog above them in the table in Saturdays fixtures as all teams failed to record a win.
Stuttgart, lying 10 points behind them with 29 from 25 games, were on a similar win-less streak, and had not recorded a Bundesliga victory since their 1-0 away win at Hoffenheim on the 17th of February, and had not won at home since the 3-1 success over Schalke 04 on the 8th of December 2012. Their fans were also starting to show their dissatisfaction with the current performance of the team and were chanting “We are fed up” through large parts of last week’s 1-0 loss to HSV. The team from Baden-Württemberg have played more competitive fixtures (41) than any other Bundesliga team this season, including an extended run in the Europa League that ended in a 5-1 aggregate loss to Italian side Lazio on Thursday.
Consequently, there was an air of negativity surrounding both teams before kick-off and this showed in the opening 10 minutes of the game, as both teams looked devoid of confidence and tentative when in possession of the ball.
The first chance of the game fell to The Reds on 16 minutes. Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp came charging out of his goal to meet a fine cross from Christian Gentner, but Bosnian striker Vedad Ibisevic beat him to it, but he could not get his header on target and the ball sailed wide to the right of the goal.
From the resulting goal kick, the home side took the lead. Some steady build-up play in the centre of the park, Pirmin Schwegler spotted the run of Stefan Aigner behind the high defensive line of Stuttgart and slotted him through on goal and with a sublime pass through the defence, leaving Aigner with the simple task of poking the ball past Sven Ulreich, much to the delight of home fans.
On 38 minutes, Italian left-back Christian Molinaro picked up his fifth yellow card of the season for a late challenge on Sebastian Jung and so will miss the next match against Borussia Dortmund.
The away side tried to find a way back into the game, but they just could not find the killer pass or forge the decisive chance they needed before half-time. Ibisevic had a couple of half-chances, but Kevin Trapp was equal to the soft attempts. Despite their one goal advantage, Eintracht still looked short of ideas, but were defensively equal to anything Stuttgart threw at them.
Stuttgart began the second half with more positivity and Christian Gentner probed the Eagles’ defence with a couple of testing crosses before they found their way back into the match. Arthur Boka ventured into the area down the right-hand side and was brought down after two rash lunges by Pirmin Schwegler just inside the box. Ibisevic then took the chance he had been waiting for and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way from the spot to score his second goal of 2013, and bring his total up to 12 for the season.
Two minutes later, William Kvist picked up his fifth yellow card of the season for a foul on Sebastian Rode, and so he will join Molinaro on the sidelines for the visit of Dortmund in a couple of weeks through suspension.
The game remained an intense encounter, with both teams trying hard to force a breakthrough, but the final ball of both teams was poor, evidencing two teams low on morale and unwilling to take a risk.
On 69 minutes, Bruno Labbadia decided to change things around for Stuttgart, bringing on Romanian midfielder Alexandru Maxim (who was wearing an interesting mask to protect his broken nose) for Shinji Okazaki.
Shortly after, a Boka free-kick was deflected away for a corner. Maxim stepped up and delivered a searching cross into the 6 yard area, but Kevin Trapp stayed rooted to his goal line and Frankfurt defence idle, allowing centre-back Georg Niedermeier to run from deep and head in Stuttgart’s second goal of the game, making the score 2-1.
Armin Veh responded by making some attacking changes; bringing on Srdan Lakic and Karim Matmour for Stefano Celozzi and Sebastian Rode respectively. Frankfurt pressed forward and began taking more risks in the final third but Stuttgart were equal to this. Kevin Trapp even joined the attack from a set-piece in injury time but they could not find an equaliser.
Bruno Labbadia, who made three changes to Stuttgart’s starting line-up since their previous Bundesliga match, will be hoping he has found a winning formula going into the final 8 games of the season, as they now lie just seven points behind 4th placed Frankfurt in 12th.
The Eagles, on the other hand, will be hoping to determine the future of manager Armin Veh sooner rather than later, as the uncertainty surrounding his potential move to Schalke 04 is clearly having a negative affect on the squad that was performing so well in the first half of the season. They have been lucky this week in that none of the teams beneath them managed to get a win and overtake them in the race for Champions League football, and next week they travel to bottom of the league Greuther Fürth, which will be a massive opportunity to turn their form around.
Eintracht Frankfurt: K. Trapp, S. Jung, C. Zambrano, Anderson Bamba, B. Oczipka, S. Celozzi (S. Lakic 74.), P. Schwegler, S. Rode (K. Matmour 74.), A. Meier, S. Aigner (S. Kittel 81.), T. Inui
VfB Stuttgart: S. Ulreich, C. Molinaro, G. Niedermeier, S. Tasci, G. Sakai, W. Kvist, A. Boka, C. Gentner, I. Traore (A. Rüdiger 88.), S. Okazaki (A. Maxim 69.), V. Ibisevic (F. Macheda 90.)
Referee: Peter Sippel