Germany: Bundesliga
2 - 1
(1 - 1)
Mainz 05
H. Ito (21), B. Sosa (51)
A. Hack (39)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Stuttgart hold off Mainz to snap six game winless run

Visiting FSV Mainz 05 were able to generate more chances that hosts VfB Stuttgart on Friday evening in the opening kickoff of the 2021/22 Bundesliga's 13th round. 

Pellegrino Matarazzo's Swabians were nevertheless able to hold on for a crucial 2-1 victory that snaps a six-game winless streak and lifts the club out of the relegation zone, at least for the weekend.
Fine finishes from Hiroki Ito and Borna Sosa were enough for the boys from the BaWü capital on Friday night. The two VfB Stuttgart defenders gave their home fans something to cheer about as the team held on against Mainz for just their third league win of the season. Later on in the match, the long-awaited return of "Silas" gave the supporters extra incentive to roar.

Entering the match, the big news for the hosting Swabians concerned the fact that "Silas" was finally deemed fit enough to make head-coach Pellegrino Matarazzo's bench squad. The game-changing Congolese winger had been out of commission since suffering a particularly nasty ACL tear last March. Stuttgart got more returning help in the form of on-loan striker Omar Marmoush, who immediately made the starting XI.

Marmoush over Tanguy Coulibaly served as Matarazzo's one change to the squad that lost to Dortmund last weekend. The previous formation looked the same amid this one straight-arrow plug-in. Mainz trainer Bo Svensson also saw no need to tinker with his normal system, simply replacing the suspended Stefan Bell with David Nemeth and the injured Dominik Kohr with Leandro Barreiro.

Stuttgart put in some early disciplined defensive work, successfully preventing the Mainz striker set of Jonathan Burkardt and Karim Onisiwo from combining despite the fact that the Rheinhessen were pressing well. The visiting Pfälzer still generated the better opportunities, but it was Matarazzo's men who took the lead in the 21st.

A nice rush led by Borna Sosa saw the Swabian's get through central. After Sosa passed to Orel Mangala, the Belgian youth international laid off very well for a onrushing Hiroki Ito. Stuttgart's Japanese loanee--whom the club is rumored to wish to purchase outright--then finished very neatly into the far left corner. The 22-year-old picked an excellent time to score his first Bundesliga goal.

An energized home side then pushed for another. The Swabians very nearly had a chance to double their advantage right away, but match official Dr. Matthias Jöllenbeck rethought his decision to award a penalty on a Robin Zentner punch over Konstantinos Mavropanos after video-review evidence showed that the FSV keeper absolutely hit the ball first.

Marmoush and Sosa tried to increase the lead during a strong spell for Stuttgart. Unfortunately, Mainz pulled back the equalizer off a corner in the 39th. Alexander Hack managed to finish off the set-piece following a nice set-up in the box from Jean-Paul Boetius. The remaining minutes of the half featured solid half chances from both teams.

Sosa put the VfB back ahead six minutes after the restart with a very clever play. The left-fullback/winger hybrid kept on a dribble whilst everyone in the Mainzer defensive ranks waited for him the cross into the box. The re-committed Croatian international fooled everyone by hanging on and banging in from a very acute angle past the surprised Zentner.

Svensson's actors couldn't quite locate the precision in their attempts to mount a response. Burkardt, Onisiwo, Boetius, and Jae-Sung Lee proved active on the front foot, yet the four attackers weren't able to get the ball to bounce for them on their forward sequences. The FSV trainer, clearly dissatisfied pulled the trigger on a quadruple change in the 75th.

Kevin Stöger, Adam Szalai, Marcus Ingvartsen, and Anton Stach all came on as part of a fully refreshed and rebuilt attack. Facing this cavalier approach, Matarazzo ordered all of his men back to defend the bombardment. Hack forced VfB keeper Florian Müller into a full-stretch-save with a vicious distance effort from 30 meters out in the 79th. Further efforts were blocked.

To a standing ovation from the Mercedes Benz Arena crowd, "Silas" returned to the pitch for the first time in eight months in the 84th. The spectators roared with every touch of the ball. Referee Jöllenbeck nevertheless ended up giving the evening's star attraction a couple of finger wags for what he perceived to be blatant attempts to draw fouls.

Stuttgart opted to simply chuck clearances out of the area during the match's tense conclusion. Sosa was also booked for time wasting and there was a bit of clear gamesmanship from the hosts as they worked to get the seconds ticked off for a crucial win. The vital three points pushes Stuttgart up to 13th place. Hertha, Augsburg, and Bochum can all overtake tomorrow, but the Swabians should be guaranteed 15th place on goal-differential.

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