Mario Gomez scored a goal in each half as ten-man VfB Stuttgart fuelled their European ambitions with an impressive win over fourth-placed Hoffenheim.
Stuttgart 2-0 Hoffenheim
Goals: 1-0 Gomez (25'), 2-0 Gomez (74')
Red card: Ascacibar (65')
Hoffenheim made a confident start, befitting a side unbeaten in their last nine Bundesliga matches. The contest was just six minutes old when Nico Schulz teed up Mark Uth, who was denied not once but twice by Stuttgart defender Benjamin Pavard. Andrej Kramaric shot wide from the edge of the box, but Hoffenheim's momentum was rocked by a nasty looking knee injury to Lukas Rupp. Stuttgart scored with their next attack, Gomez dispatching Christian Gentner's cross with aplomb from nine yards. Kramaric went within a whisker of turning in a Steven Zuber pass as Hoffenheim went in trailing at the break for the first time in 11 games.
The introduction of Adam Szalai saw Julian Nagelsmann switch to a three-man forward line early in the second period. Zuber was beginning to find joy up the right-hand side when the Austrian had his ankles clipped by Santiago Ascacibar, the Stuttgart midfielder collecting his second yellow card and marching orders. Hoffenheim flooded forward, but were caught out when Gomez turned in from Erik Thommy to complete his double. Szalai struck the woodwork and had a goal ruled out, but Hoffenheim could not find a way back and must now beat Borussia Dortmund on the final day to be sure of their place in next season's UEFA Champions League.
- Only Bayern Munich (43) have picked up more points in the second half of the season than Stuttgart (31) from the 16 matches played so far.Mario Gomez has scored 12 goals in 15 career outings against Hoffenheim. He's only had more luck in front of goal against Stuttgart, Wolfsburg and Leverkusen.Gomez's seventh and eighth Stuttgart goals of the year were his first at home since returning to the club during the winter break. The 32-year-old is now sixth in the all-time club scoring charts on 71 goals, and 11th on the list of the all-time Bundesliga scorers - level with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge - on 163 goals.Hoffenheim's nine-match unbeaten run was the joint-longest of any Bundesliga team this year.TSG's Steven Zuber made his first start since 27 January.The injured Serge Gnabry came through the Stuttgart youth ranks.
Stuttgart: Zieler – Baumgartl, Pavard, Badstuber (Kaminski 46'), Insua – Thommy (Mangala 76'), Gentner (c), Ascacibar, Aogo – Ginczek (Donis 61'), Gomez
Unused subs: Grahl, Akolo, Özcan, Bruun Larsen
Absentees: Beck (cruciate ligament), Mane (thigh)
Coach: Tayfun Korkut
Hoffenheim: Baumann – Akpoguma, Vogt (c), Nordtveit (Szalai 50') – Rupp (Zulj 22'), Grillitsch, Amiri, Zuber (Hack 67'), Schulz – Kramaric, Uth
Unused subs: Kobel, Bicakcic, Polanski, Passlack
Absentees: Kaderabek (suspended), Posch (groin), Geiger (thigh), Demirbay (ankle), Gnabry (groin), Hübner (thigh)
Coach: Julian Nagelsmann
Watch: Gomez: "Our belief is a brute force"