Solid start for Stevens as Stuttgart draw in Bremen

Bremen - VfB Stuttgart took another small step on the road to survival with a 1-1 draw away to SV Werder Bremen in Huub Stevens' first game in charge of the club.

Evenly balanced

Georg Niedermeier put the Swabians in front early in the second half, but a delightful Aaron Hunt free-kick salvaged a point for the hosts, ensuring the visitors remained just three points off the foot of the table.

Huub Stevens opted against rocking the Stuttgart boat in his first match at the helm, keeping largely the same starting XI that drew 2-2 against Eintracht Braunschweig last week. Key playmaker Alexandru Maxim was dropped to the bench, but that didn't stop the visitors going on the front foot early on, pressing their hosts and bossing the midfield for the first 20 minutes, albeit without truly creating any chances of note.

However, Bremen came into the fixture on a four-game unbeaten run - including victories in their two most recent outings - and with self-confidence understandably high, the hosts were not about to just roll over. Robin Dutt's charges gradually forced their way back into the game and Argentinian forward Franco Di Santo had the first clear sight of goal when he flicked a drilled left-wing cross just over the bar from close range.

Niedermeier strikes

Goalscoring chances were few and far between in an intriguing tactical spectacle, but Martin Harnik should have put the visitors ahead on the stroke of half time after Stuttgart were awarded a penalty following Assani Lukimya's handball. However, the Austrian international - taking his first ever Bundesliga spot-kick - fired narrowly wide of the top-right corner to ensure the teams went into the break on level terms.

The match remained a tight affair after the restart but Stuttgart managed to edge ahead when Bremen failed to clear their lines from a corner. Konstantin Rausch lofted the ball back into the box from 30 yards out and, though Niedermeier's flick goalwards was well saved by Raphael Wolf, the defender was well positioned to prod home the rebound. Gotoku Sakai squandered a wonderful opportunity to extend the visitors' lead shortly afterwards, blazing carelessly over after his body shuffle on the edge of the area had opened up space.

Hunt stunner

Bremen surged forward in response and pulled level in the closing stages when Hunt's curling free-kick from 20-yards found a gap in the Stuttgart wall to beat a flat-footed Sven Ulreich. With the wind in their sails, the home team continued to attack and although Stuttgart did still threaten sporadically on the break, neither side came close to scoring again.

While the solitary point earned does little to help Stuttgart's plight at the wrong end of the standings, they have now gone two games without defeat and showed considerably more fighting spirit than was evident in recent weeks, giving cause for optimism in their fight against relegation.

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