Three second-half goals secured Augsburg a vital victory over Stuttgart to take them level on points with fourth-bottom Düsseldorf ahead of the latter's game against Dortmund this evening.
Augsburg pressure unrewarded
The win also maintains FCA's three-point advantage over second-bottom Hoffenheim, who also took a maximum haul against Nuremberg.
The game got off to a fast and furious start at both ends, Sascha Mölders miscuing a half-chance for the hosts inside a couple of minutes and Martin Harnik just failing to connect with Alexandru Maxim's lay-off in direct response. After that, however, it was the hosts who increasingly dominated proceedings, with VfB limited to the odd but nonetheless dangerous counter-attack, Harnik fizzing a shot inches over the bar from one such on the quarter-hour mark.
Stuttgart had Sven Ulreich to thank for keeping the scoresheet blank midway through the half, the keeper blocking a tight-angled drive from Andre Hahn with his legs as the home side further upped the pressure. There was no quarter being asked or spared, as demonstrated by a clutch of yellow cards dished out by the referee over the final 15 minutes of the half, which remained goalless.
Mölders gets things rolling
The first chance after the restart fell to Stuttgart four minutes in, Maxim teeing up Harnik for a header that pulled a good save out of home keeper Alex Manninger. The next was Augsburg's, but Mölders was unable to take it in the 57th minute. Four minutes later, though, the FCA marksman was back in the scoring groove, meeting Tobias Werner's corner with a header back across the face of goal and past Ulreich, who had remained on his line. It was Mölders' tenth Bundesliga goal of the season, simultaneously ending a 607-minute scoring drought.
A snap-shot from Daniel Baier, saved by Ulreich, a crossbar-shaving header from Dong-Won Ji and another vital Ulreich stop one-on-one against Werner all followed as Augsburg sought to make the result safe, before Stuttgart almost snatched a 77th-minute equaliser, the hosts somehow managing to scrape Georg Niedermeier's header to a Christian Gentner corner off the line. Then came the grand finale as Marcel De Jong, just a minute off the bench, pulled an inch-perfect lob out of the hat to beat Ulreich from outside the box. A couple of minutes on from that, Augsburg put the result beyond any remaining doubt as Hahn intercepted a loose pass and crossed for Ji to finish the job in style.
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