Stuttgart rise on Stevens' return

Freiburg - Huub Stevens celebrated a winning return to VfB Stuttgart as the Swabians beat ten-man SC Freiburg 4-1 in Friday night's Bundesliga Matchday 13 opener.

Stuttgart on back foot

Martin Harnik grabbed two with Carlos Gruezo and Timo Werner also on target to end a three-game losing streak and lift Stuttgart off the foot of the table. Vladimir Darida scored the consolation for Freiburg, who ended the game with ten men with Stefan Mitrovic sent for an early bath.

Stevens made four changes on his return to the Stuttgart bench, handing Gruezo his first start in almost two months, while Florian Klein was in for the suspended Daniel Schwaab. One of Stevens' favourite dogmas is that keeping a clean sheet is the basis for success and his side had to work particularly hard to ensure that was the case early on as Freiburg started confidently.

Klein blocked a Jonathan Schmid shot with Sven Ulreich beaten, before Sebastian Freis blazed over after Ulreich fumbled Marc Torrejon's drive back into the danger zone. Felix Klaus could not quite bring Admir Mehmedi's cross under complete control as yet another chance went begging for the hosts, who paid the price for their wastefulness as Stuttgart struck with their first chance.

End-to-end action

Antonio Rüdiger flicked on a corner to the far post where Harnik just managed to get his head around the ball to guide it in from close range. Freiburg were deflated and Roman Bürki nearly shot himself in the foot when he tried to be too fancy, with Christian Gentner almost robbing him of possession on the edge of his area.

Suddenly Stuttgart were in the ascendency and Harnik could have made it two but for the bravura of Bürki. Instead of falling two behind, Freiburg levelled when Darida took aim and found the bottom corner from 25 yards, while Jonathan Schmid nearly turned the game on its head a minute later, the Frenchman thumping against the crossbar.

Harnik at the double

There was no impression that this was a derby that neither side wanted to lose, but rather one they both wanted to win, and it was Stuttgart again who took the lead when Gentner's shot struck Mitrovic on his thigh and Gruezo pounced on the loose ball to bulge the back of the net with the first ever Bundesliga goal scored by an Ecuadorian player.

Freiburg's hopes of mounting another recovery were dashed in the space of two minutes, first when Timo Werner threaded the ball in through Bürki's legs, and then when Mitrovic was shown a red card for a foul as the last man on Harnik. Stuttgart's Austrian forward took advantage of the extra room to turn Gotoku Sakai's shot in for his second, Stuttgart's fourth and three precious points.

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