Sinsheim - VfB Stuttgart finally opened their account for 2013 as they secured a 1-0 win in the Schwaben derby against local rivals 1899 Hoffenheim.
Martin Harnik struck the only goal of the game just three minutes in, as the Swabians maintained their unbeaten record in Sinsheim at a time when they desperately needed points to halt a slide down the table.
With Hoffenheim leaking early goals in each of their last two matches, it was probably no surprise that Harnik put the visitors in front so soon after the first whistle. Ibrahima Traore got the better of Andreas Beck before sending in a cross which was met by the Austrian, who headed in his fourth goal of the season, all coming away from home, off the underside of the crossbar.
It was the first time in 2013 that Stuttgart have gone ahead in a Bundesliga encounter, and it clearly gave them a boost. They twice went close to doubling their advantage with Traore's shot missing by a matter of inches before Vedad Ibisevic struck wide. Having weathered the early storm, Hoffenheim rallied, but by doing so, left even more gaps for Stuttgart to exploit.
Point to prove
Harnik was put through expertly by former Hoffenheim forward Ibisevic, but there were no takers for his low cross with Stuttgart's midfield struggling to keep pace with their attacking duo. At the other end, Joselu went the closest for the hosts in the 38th minute, but a deflection off the knee of Georg Niedermeier ensured his effort flew wide of the target.
An intrepid Traore stung the palms of Heurelho Gomes as Stuttgart attempted to add to the scoreline, before Christian Gentner had a shot blocked. VfB appeared to want to shake off the frustration of losing their last five Bundesliga matches, and the venom with which they attacked Hoffenheim confirmed that they had a point to prove. Yet they were almost punished for their profligacy when Joselu, Hoffenheim’s biggest threat, was denied by the foot of Sven Ulreich.
Stuttgart hold on
Gentner failed to make the most of the room he was afforded out wide as Stuttgart continued to find gaps without capitalising. The visitors could have been forgiven for fearing a repeat of Thursday night, when they conceded an equaliser deep into stoppage time against KRC Genk.
Lightning didn't strike twice, though, as Stuttgart notched their fifth away victory of the campaign, an amount bettered only by FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, while Hoffenheim were left licking their wounds after a 14th defeat of the season - one more than in the whole of last season, and more than any other side in the top flight this term.
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