Berlin - VfB Stuttgart's resurgence continued apace with a 1-0 win at Hertha Berlin.
Fresh Hertha faces
Hertha had not lost at home since their May 2012 play-off defeat to Fortuna Düsseldorf, but for all their possession, the hosts simply could not deliver the all-important touch in front of goal to cancel out Christian Gentner's match-winning header.
Hertha coach Jos Luhukay rang the changes in the wake of his side's first loss of the campaign to VfL Wolfsburg, with new boys Tolga Cigerci and Per Skjelbred, Johannes van den Bergh and Brazilian playmaker Ronny coming in for Sebastian Langkamp, Sami Allagui, Nico Schulz and the injured Alexander Baumjohann. Despite the hosts' tactical deviations, Luhukay's men looked their usual assured selves in front of the lively partisan crowd, locking down possession for much of the first half.
As a result, the visitors found themselves drawn into an energy-zapping game of cat and mouse, accordingly having to drop deeper and deeper just to get a foothold in the game. When they did, a Vedad Ibisevic-inspired counter almost caught the otherwise comfortable hosts cold, but the Bosnia-Herzegovina international was unable to make a telling connection from the ensuing corner.
Gentner comes good
Stuttgart's next foray into Hertha territory proved far more decisive, though, as Thomas Schneider's men took a 49th-minute lead. Alexandru Maxim's pinpoint corner picked out Gentner, who sent a glancing header past Thomas Kraft, the Berlin goalkeeper unable to replicate a fine reflex save which denied the Stuttgart captain late in the first 45 minutes.
Not to be disheartened, Hertha summoned an immediate response. Adrian Ramos did the hard work, but Skjelbred sent his effort straight at Stuttgart's Sven Ulreich from close range. The Swabians' No.1 was called on again moments later, this time foiling the lively Ramos, before Cigerci rifled a fierce effort past the upright.
It was one-way traffic, but try as they might Hertha could not force the ball into the net, with a determined Ulreich pulling off another impressive save to deny USA international John Anthony Brooks' bullet header. Sensing his side's growing frustration and with time fast running out, Luhukay threw on Sandro Wagner and Schulz.
Chasing the game, Hertha inevitably left themselves exposed at the back, but it was a sacrifice they were willing to take in order to preserve their 19-match unbeaten home run. Not even substitute Sami Allagui could turn the tide, though, as Stuttgart held on to record their second win in as many games under Swabian saviour Schneider.
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