A superb free-kick from Johannes Geis gave Mainz the lead before the break, but Stuttgart improved as the game wore on. Filip Kostic’s cross sailed into the far corner for a 72nd-minute equaliser, before Christian Gentner was forced to clear off the line in the dying stages to deny Shinji Okazaki.
In an effort to reinforce a struggling back line, Stuttgart coach Huub Stevens opted to start with the defensively-minded pair of Adam Hlousek and Florian Klein. Although it may have been a limited stategy, it served its purpose early, as the hosts failed to gain a foothold and Stevens’ troops used the power of Daniel Ginczek up front. Sami Allagui was the one Mainz player looking to force the issue, often driving beyond tough tackles to find Okazaki.
It took until the 20-minute mark for the game to open up, Mainz’s midfield pair Geis and Joo-Ho Park unsuccessfully testing Sven Ulreich, and although Jairo was looking promising on the right flank, a Mainz side without a win in six only enjoyed one real chance when Allagui’s 29th-minute shot was blocked for a corner.
Kasper Hjulmand’s side looked much more threatening from dead-ball situations, aiming to capitalise on Stuttgart’s shakiness. After former Stuttgart star Okazaki came close on the turn, Geis gave his side the lead with a brilliant free kick nine minutes before the break. The goal revived Mainz’s early-season fearlessness; they remained untroubled at the back and unfortunate not to go in with a two-goal cushion when Junior Diaz headed wide in added time.
Stuttgart were the stronger side in the immediate period following the break, but Georg Niedermeier failed with a header, while Ginczek spurned a gilt-edged chance for the visitors, guiding Gentner’s low pass straight at Lorius Karius in the Mainz goal. The basement boys weren’t helping themselves by giving the ball away time and time again, indicative of their flagging confidence, and Yunus Malli should have punished them on the break before the hour mark.
Kostic saves the day
In the 62nd minute, Mainz again had the opportunity to increase their lead, Allagui hitting his shot at Ulreich, and moments later, Jairo drew a crucial block. Their profligacy was punished when substitute Kostic’s cross sailed between Nikolce Noveski and Karius, and straight into the far corner. It was a fortunate finish for the Serb’s first goal in the Bundesliga, but one which left the hosts regretting their earlier wastefulness.
The influential Joo-Ho Park and Kostic traded shots from range as the game drew to a close, although Mainz looked the more likely to find the winner. Kostic was called into a brilliant tackle in the right-back position, before Gentner denied his former team-mate Okazaki with a clearance off the line in the 88th minute to ensure Stuttgart returned home with a precious point.
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