Christian Gentner gave the hosts a deserved lead after 15 minutes, but substitute Davie Selke levelled proceedings five minutes after the restart. Daniel Ginczek nodded home in the 70th minute, but Bremen hit back through Jannik Vestergaard five minutes from time after VfB's Martin Harnik had been dismissed. Ginczek, however, was to have the final say, winning a rollercoaster encounter with a cool finish in additional time.
Hosts on top
Boosted by the return of Antonio Rüdiger in defence, Stuttgart began enterprisingly. Gentner nodded over in the fourth minute as the hosts attempted to expose Bremen’s lack of width by moving the ball to the flanks. Although Vestergaard nodded over in the 12th minute, it was Geoffroy Serey Die’s muscular midfield play which gave Huub Stevens’ side a platform to dominate the opening stages.
On the quarter-hour mark, Die’s partner in midfield, Gentner, capitalised on his side’s control with the opener, arrowing home unerringly from 25 yards and leaving Raphael Wolf no chance. Ginczek then spurned a golden chance to double the lead before shooting narrowly wide in the 23rd minute. The visitors lacked rhythm, and were again fortunate to escape unscathed in the 30th minute when Ginczek came within inches of converting Alexandru Maxim’s low cross.
Selke hits back
The hosts continued to press as half-time approached, with Harnik shooting wide and Vestergaard forced into an excellent tackle to deny the indefatigable Ginczek. Levent Aycicek mustered a weak response by firing over at the other end, but it was Janek Sternberg’s failure to produce anything threatening when in an excellent position five minutes before the break which typified the visitors’ first-half attempts.
Bremen coach Viktor Skripnik reacted to his side’s toothless efforts by introducing Selke after the break. It was a ploy which paid dividends immediately as, five minutes after his entrance, the youngster met Clemens Fritz’s cross with a brilliant header to restore parity. Gutsy in response, Filip Kostic and Harnik shot over for VfB, but it was Selke who came closest to the next goal before the hour mark when his shot from the edge of the area was well saved by Sven Ulreich.
Despite Bremen’s growing composure, it was Stuttgart who began to carve out the best chances. In a two-minute period after the hour-mark, Harnik twice spurned gilt-edged opportunities, firstly firing over and then contriving to volley wide at the back post with the goal gaping. The Austrian, however, atoned in the 69th minute by crossing for Ginczek, whose powerful header restored the hosts’ lead.
Yet Harnik’s second yellow five minutes from time gave Bremen renewed impetus. The visitors almost immediately made the ten men pay, Vestergaard rising highest after a corner to head home and level proceedings for a second time. Bremen’s jubilation wasn’t to last, though, as Ginczek latched onto Die’s wonderful pass in injury time to finish calmly and help his side off the bottom of the standings.
Line-ups and statistics