Germany: Bundesliga
2 - 0
(1 - 0)
Hertha BSC
By Ultan Corcoran@UltanCorcoran

Hertha victorious over Stuttgart in crucial relegation scrap

Marcel Lotka performed admirably for Magath's side, as unusual heroes Selke and Belfodil bagged secured three points to bring BSC closer to survival, while Stuttgart remain in 16th place.
Sunday’s Bundesliga action concluded with a Matchday 31 relegation six pointer between Hertha Berlin and VfB Stuttgart. Separated by a solitary point ahead of kick off, the club from the German capital were looking to keep their heads above the treacherous waters of the Bundesliga’s promotion-relegation position, which the visiting Swabians occupied. In the end it was Hertha who came out the better on a 2-0 scoreline.

After the clouds of smoke settled in the aftermath of the Hertha fans’ pyrotechnic display, former Stuttgart man, Marc-Oliver Kempf almost came back to haunt his previous employers when his header sailed narrowly wide. Selke found the net moments later and initially the goal appeared to be ruled offside, but celebrations resumed when VAR said otherwise. Plattenhardt’s perfect cross was guided home expertly by his German BSC counterpart for a dream 1-0 start inside 4 minutes.

Stuttgart captain Endo stung the palms of Lotka early on, but the game entered somewhat of a nervous lull soon after – understandable given the magnitude of the game and survival at stake for both outfits in Germany’s premium competition. The injured Stenzel was replaced by Erik Tommy on 25 minutes, and Stuttgart had more joy on the right flank but were still yet to really threaten despite a strong passage of play around the 30-35th minute mark.

Fuhrich had a go from range before the break on the VfB counter, but it failed to trouble Lotka. Hertha finished the half stronger and penalty appeals rang out for a handball by Kalajdzic but they were quickly rejected. Tousart rippled the side netting from the resulting corner, as Stuttgart appeared defensively vulnerable from dead ball scenarios.

The second half resumed with a lively start from Die Schwaben inside seven minutes. Mavropanos recovered possession in the middle of the field before going on a mazing run in a striker-like fashion. The Greek centre half’s effort grazed the crossbar after a last ditch Kempf intervention. Further efforts from the lively Fuhrich and Tommy drew saves from Lotka once more, as Stuttgart started to grow more forcefully into the affair.

Darida received a fifth yellow card which will rule him out of the trip to Bielefeld next week. Substitute Ishak Belfodil, who entered the fray for Boateng, almost prodded home when he extended his foot to double on Pekarik’s shot, however the effort trailed the wrong side of the left upright.

As the game approached the final ten minutes, Matarazzo’s charges continued to bombard the Hertha rear guard but to little joy. Sosa, who was firing crosses from all sorts of angles at this stage, delivered once more. The Croat’s ball almost resulted in a freak own goal when Boyata sliced his attempted clearance goalward only for it to narrowly clear the crossbar.

Stuttgart emptied the bench with five minutes of normal time to go introducing Coulibaly and Millot. Hertha fans attempted to guide their boys home as Stuttgart abandoned tactics throwing everyone forward during the five additional minutes. Nonetheless it was Hertha who put the game to bed when Belfodil slotted home for 2-0 on the counterattack with the coolest of finishes.

This Hertha win puts four points between them and Stuttgart in what could be a monumental result for Die Alten Dame as the season approaches its finale. The battling Swabians seem destined for a 16th place finish at best, however there is time and fixtures to turn it around.

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