Wolfsburg - Andre Schürrle broke his VfL Wolfsburg duck in a comfortable 3-1 win over bottom club VfB Stuttgart.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup winner capped a superlative second-half team display, Ricardo Rodriguez having scored either side of a well-deserved equaliser from Stuttgart’s Martin Harnik to all but end the game as a contest with 25 minutes still to play.
There was no sign of any ring rust following the ten-day international break as Wolfsburg’s Brazilian international midfielder Luiz Gustavo went within a whisker of turning home Kevin De Bruyne’s flicked header inside three minutes. Stuttgart were just as bold in their attempts to get their noses in front, but defender Georg Niedermeier was unable to make the most of two promising openings in the box.
Fresh from making his senior bow for the Netherlands, in-form Wolfsburg striker Bas Dost sent an inventive header straight at Sven Ulreich. Serbian winger Filip Kostic should have given the visitors the lead moments later, but his low strike was palmed behind by Diego Benaglio. The Wolves swiftly worked the ball back into Stuttgart territory, only for Josuha Guilavogui to send Christian Träsch’s probing right-wing cross wide of the far post.
Stuttgart certainly weren’t playing like a side that had been rooted to the foot of the table since Matchday 20, but they fell behind late in the half when Rodriguez sent Ulreich the wrong way from the penalty spot after Florian Klein was adjudged to have fouled Daniel Caligiuri in the box. The lead lasted barely three minutes, though, with Harnik supplying the finishing touch to a wonderful run and cross from Kostic.
The action showed no sign of abating after the restart as Ulreich foiled Dost from close range after a trademark pass from De Bruyne. The Stuttgart goalkeeper was called on again to push away a steaming low strike from Daniel Caligiuri, before visiting skipper Christian Gentner found space at the other end to squeeze out a shot that Benaglio gobbled up at the second time of asking.
Wolves bite back
The contest was on a knife-edge, but by now it was Wolfsburg asking all the questions as Vieirinha met De Bruyne’s clipped cross with an audacious rising volley. Sure enough, it was the home side who retook the lead through Rodriguez's well-disguised free kick, with Ulreich duped by the movement of Naldo on the penalty spot as the long, flighted ball nestled into the corner.
Wolfsburg substitute Schürrle rubbed salt into the wound by thumping home a third courtesy of De Bruyne's 17th assist of the season to take the Wolves to within seven points of leaders FC Bayern München ahead of Saturday’s late game at Borussia Dortmund. Stuttgart, meanwhile, sit five points adrift of outright safety with only seven matches remaining.
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