Anything else would have been harsh on the Swabian strugglers, who created plenty of chances before Daniel Didavi and Filip Kostic broke Mainz’s flagging resistance midway through the second half.
Didavi pulls the strings
Stuttgart head coach Huub Stevens sprung a surprise by naming injury-plagued playmaker Didavi in the starting line-up for the first time since 20 December 2014. The mercurial German talent’s inclusion certainly gave the home side a lift, with Mainz defender Nikolce Noveski called on inside the opening 120 seconds to deny Daniel Ginczek a clear sight of goal.
Stuttgart’s early endeavour was hardly typical of a side that had spent the entire second half of the campaign in the bottom three. The hosts were dictating the rhythm of the game and using the flanks to particularly good effect. Kostic showed Mainz right-back Stefan Bell a clean pair of heels, but Didavi failed to make the necessary connection with the Serbian winger’s low cross.
Stuttgart in control
The visitors got off lightly once again in the 35th minute when the effervescent Didavi sent a fierce effort against the upright with Loris Karius beaten. Daniel Schwaab failed to find the target from close range as Stuttgart laid siege to the Mainz goal, before Ginczek spurned a golden opportunity, firing Christian Gentner’s deflected effort into the turf and wide.
A Johannes Geis free kick aside, the 05ers had offered precious little as an attacking unit, but not even the second-half introduction of South Korean international midfielder Ja-Cheol Koo could wake Martin Schmidt’s side from their slumber. Stuttgart’s Kostic pulled away from his marker and crossed for Martin Harnik, who was denied a certain goal by Pierre Bengtsson’s outstretched boot.
Gaps were beginning to appear in the Stuttgart back four as the home side pushed for the breakthrough, but their fearless approach paid off with 25 minutes remaining. Didavi unleashed a swerving 30-yard strike that took a wicked bounce in front of Karius, who could only watch the ball fly into the net at his near post.
The relief was palpable and, with the shackles off, Stuttgart duly doubled their lead as Kostic rattled in his third of the campaign following an incisive exchange involving Ginczek and Harnik. Ginczek could have made it three, but there was no taking the shine off an impressive and much-needed victory that leaves VfB just a point adrift of 15th-placed SC Freiburg with two games to go.
Line-ups and statistics