Groβaspach - VfB Stuttgart rode their luck to join Eintracht Frankfurt in Friday’s draw for the final qualifying round for the UEFA Europa League, thanks to an away-goal success over PFC Botev Plovdiv following their 0-0 home draw in the return leg.

The best chances fell to the two-time Bulgarian champions on Thursday, who had the hosts on the ropes for much of the first half. A second-half revival validated VfB's progress, although the lack of a goal, and some defensive mishaps, will be of concern to coach Bruno Labbadia, despite his side’s passage.

Looking rusty


Just three days before their Bundesliga opener at 1. FSV Mainz 05, Stuttgart’s defence appeared surprisingly rusty and unprepared against Botev. Shortly after going close at the right end, Georg Niedermeier caused his own goalkeeper even greater problems in the 24th minute, although Sven Ulreich saved his and Stuttgart’s blushes. Ulreich was called into action once again shortly before the break to diffuse Romario Kortzorg’s powerful effort.

Carrying only an away-goal advantage into the final 45 minutes in Großaspach, Stuttgart’s adopted home for this Europa League qualifier, the risk was clearly too great that the Swabians’ European campaign could be over before the Bundesliga starts. Labbadia appeared to have found some choice words during the interval as Stuttgart emerged with more attacking intent.

Sneaking through


It also helped matters that Martin Harnik replaced Alexandru Maxim, who had been unable to get his creative boots working in the first 45 minutes. The Austrian substitute sent in an immediate warning, albeit missing the target. His cross then passed just inches in front of Cacau.

Ibisevic, the scorer of Stuttgart’s all-important away goal in Bulgaria, was introduced late on as the hosts searched for a goal which would have slightly settled their nerves. It did not arrive, but Stuttgart were nevertheless able to celebrate a goalless draw which still meant a place in the play-off for the group stages of the Europa League.

Line-ups:

Stuttgart: Ulreich - Schwaab, Tasci, Niedermeier (63' Rüdiger), Sakai - Gentner, Boka - Maxim (46' Harnik), Traore - Cacau, Abdellaoue (79' Ibisevic)

Plovdiv: Stachoviak - Hristov, Sprockel, Gmcarov, Minev - Galchev, Anicet (69' Domovtschijski), Jirsak - Nedelev, Ognjanov (80' Kostov), Kortzorg (85' Pedro)