Determined Stuttgart battle bravely for 2-2 draw in Munich
By Ultan Corcoran @UltanCorcoran
In a game of huge significance for Matarazzo's relegation battling side, Stuttgart took an early lead only to be pegged back before the break. Sasa Kalajdzic gave the visitors their just rewards with an early second-half goal in a frantic final game at the Allianz Arena.
The start was anything but ideal for the hosts, namely Nianzou, who found himself in the ref’s book inside six minutes. Moments later, the French youngster was exposed again when Omar Marmoush picked out Thiago Tomas made it 1-0 with a sumptuous half-volley beyond Neuer. Endo also came close previously, and so to Müller with a volley of his own at the other end rattling the crossbar in what was a frantic opening to the affair.
Stuttgart posed a real threat on the break, particularly on the right side, finding vulnerability in the newly forged partnership of Nianzou and Davies. Marmoush raced through on goal, but the experienced Manuel Neuer held his ground as the Egyptian’s tame chipped finish criminally lacked accuracy. One Muller tested the other on 28 minutes – Pavard’s clipped cross met by Thomas Müller was spectacularly pushed out for a corner by Florian Müller between the posts.
Stuttgart’s rear guard defended admirably for as long as they could, but their goal was breached on 35 minutes and in the cruellest of fashions with an own goal from Mavropanos. Lewandowski played in Gnabry at an acute angle who cut in and fired into a crowed box as the ball caught the studs of the outstretched Greek defender to level matters. Just before the interval, and Müller, who had come close to scoring all afternoon, pirouetted perfectly on the edge of the box and poked the ball to the back of the net to make it 2-1.
Upon resumption of the second half and the visitors started stronger – Waldemar Anton found himself forward and tested Neuer but to no joy. However, Matarazzo and Co. weren’t left disappointed for long when they drew level at 2-2 in the most trademark way possible – Sosa crossed to find the towering Kalajdzic who leaped above Upamecano to bury the ball beyond Neuer. The Austrian could have given his side the lead in the subsequent attack when he was gifted an opportunity but could get no purchase behind the strike and fluffed his lines.
Both sides made changes approaching the final 20 minutes – Roca and Tolisso came in for Nagelsmann’s charges, while Coulibaly, Mangala, and Förster came in for Stuttgart, with the latter going close with his first touch. In what was an amazing for Stuttgart shot stopper, Florian Müller denied Lewandowski once more from point blank range, his outstretched boot diverting the Pole’s strike onto the crossbar.
Tiredness was visible in the Stuttgart players at this point, most notably etched into the fatigued figures of Kalajdzic and Endo, both of whom were doubled over with cramp at times. This was more than understandable however, as Matarazzo’s players had fought tooth and nail for every ball, block, and shot at goal with unmatchable spirit. Tempers flared before the final whistle and Coman was given his marching orders after reacting adversely to a late challenge from Mavropanos but in the end it was honours even at 2-2.
The draw isn’t the worst result for Stuttgart as they look highly unlikely to be directly relegated given their 3-point lead and favourable goal difference over Bielefeld in 17th place. They could even go one better next week and rise to the safety 15th place if they defeat Koln and Hertha Berlin, who are three points above the Swabians with worse goal difference, fail to get a result against Borussia Dortmund.