VfB Stuttgart moved three points clear of the Bundesliga's relegation play-off position with a deserved 3-1 victory over 1. FC Köln on Saturday.
Making his first Bundesliga start in over a year, former Borussia Dortmund star Kevin Großkreutz was involved immediately at the RheinEnergieSTADION, making several crunching tackles in the opening minutes. The 27-year-old could do little to prevent the hosts from taking a 19th-minute lead, however, Anthony Modeste converting from the penalty spot after Marcel Risse had been brought down by Georg Niedermeier. Stuttgart appeared momentarily stunned, but the visitors quickly regained their composure and restored parity when Daniel Didavi slid home from close range.
The Swabians flew out of the traps in the second half and took a deserved lead six minutes after the restart. Filip Kostic curled an inswinging corner into the six-yard area and Timo Werner, left unmarked by the Köln rearguard, directed a glancing header past a stranded Timo Horn. The hosts' keeper made a superb one-handed save to deny Christian Gentner with time ticking away, but the VfB captain tapped home a wonderful flowing move after 83 minutes to put the seal on a richly deserved win for Jürgen Kramny's side.
Man of the match
Kostic was instrumental in Stuttgart's victory at the RheinEnergieSTADION - only their second on the road this season. The Serbian gave Pavel Olkowski a torrid time down Köln's right-hand side and was involved in two of the visitors' three goals. Kramny will be hoping there is more to come from the 23-year-old this season.
Stuttgart went into the game with the worst away record in the Bundesliga this season, but they proved they will be no pushovers in the second half of the campaign. The Swabians did not let their heads drop after falling behind, before showing grit and determination to hold onto the three points against a Köln side who are notoriously hard to beat on home soil.
- Modeste scored his eighth goal of the season in Cologne, one more than he managed in the entire 2014/15 campaign.
- This was the first time Köln have lost this season after scoring the opening goal.
- Gentner registered five attempts on goal at the RheinEnergieSTADION, more than any other player.
Köln: Horn - Olkowski (Zoller, 52'), Heintz, Maroh, Hector - Vogt (Jozic, 71'), Lehmann (c) - Risse, Osako, Bittencourt (Mladenovic, 66') - Modeste
Stuttgart: Tyton - Großkreutz, Schwaab, Niedermeier, Insua - Serey Die, Gentner (c) - Rupp (Klein, 87'), Didavi, Kostic (Baumgartl, 90') - Werner (Kravets, 77')
Matthew Howarth reporting from the RheinEnergieSTADION