VfB Stuttgart recorded only their second league win of the season with a 1-0 success against Hamburger SV at the Imtech Arena on Sunday evening.
A strike from Vedad Ibisevic just over half an hour into the contest secured the visitors three much-needed points, the Bosnia-Herzegovina international's fourth goal of the season also serving to end HSV's four-match unbeaten run.
Looking to maintain his side's hot streak, Hamburg head coach Thorsten Fink kept faith with the same starting eleven who dispatched SpVgg Greuther Fürth last time out. It was a continuity plan that had served the Red Shorts well in recent weeks, but they were very nearly caught out inside the first 90 seconds as Rene Adler was called on to smother at the feet of Martin Harnik.
Stuttgart continued to move the ball more effectively early on, with the hosts instead opting for a more direct approach, as when Artjoms Rudnevs skipped past Serdar Tasci and warmed the palms of Sven Ulreich from 14 yards out. Such was the open nature of the contest, the next chance was not long in coming, but Ibisevic could only send his effort wide when when it looked easier to score.
If anything, a confident-looking Stuttgart were playing much more like the home side and after Ibrahima Traore's run and shot forced Adler back into action, the Swabians took a deserved lead. Ever the willing runner, Harnik skipped past Marcell Jansen, before crossing for Ibisevic to fire his side ahead in the 31st minute.
Hamburg playmaker Rafael van der Vaart spurned his side's clearest chance thus far moments later, with Stuttgart defender Arthur Boka doing just enough to prevent the Dutchman from putting his laces through Petr Jiracek’s hanging cross. The visitors almost paid a high price for their defender’s heroic lunge, though, as Milan Badelji's 25-yard rocket smashed the bar and Rudnevs tucked away the rebound only for the linesman to raise his flag for offside, whilst Boka stood pitchside receiving treatment.
Cristian Molinaro got the nod in place of the stricken Boka at the start of the second half, but the shake-up did little to disrupt the visitors' flow. Harnik drove a fierce effort straight at Adler, before sliding through to the lively Traore, who had his pockets picked by Dennis Diekmeier just as he looked set to pull the trigger. Hamburg responded in kind, with Ulreich unable to keep hold of Maximilian Beister's vicious low strike and Jansen sending the follow-up over the bar.
Both sides went hell for leather in an end-to-end final half-hour, as Stuttgart's Raphael Holzhauser wasted a golden opportunity to make the game safe after 65 minutes. An unusually subdued van der Vaart then tried his luck from distance, before Michael Mancienne and Adler foiled quick-fire efforts from Traore and Harnik at the other end. Hamburg continued to press as the clock ticked down, but Ulreich was on hand to repel their best efforts to draw level.
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