Germany: Bundesliga
3 - 0
(3 - 0)
S. Guirassy (11), D. Undav (17), J. Leweling (37)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Stuttgart secure 2024/25 European football with convincing home win

VfB Stuttgart's 11th consecutive league victory officially seals at least Europa League football for the incredible "comeback story" of the 2023/24 German Bundesliga campaign. The BaWü club that escaped relegation last year only via the relegation playoffs is assured of at least a top-six finish after besting Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0. 

VfB Stuttgart have extended their unbeaten run in the league to 11 straight fixtures with a 3-0 home win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday evening. The latest victory gives the 2023/24 Bundesliga sensations a perfect 6-0 record in late kickoffs this year. Sebastian Hoeneß' Württembergers are also back level on points with German giants FC Bayern München (also victorious today) in the race to claim second place in the table. Though the VfB trainer insisted that he wished to postpone his own personal celebrations until his team officially seals Champions' League qualification, many VfB supporters will surely be proud of the fact that their club has at least secured Europa League football next year. 

Hoeneß had three changes to his starting XI from last week to register. Injuries precluded keeper Alexander Nübel and right-back Josha Vagnoman from taking part. Leonidas Stergiou took over for Vagnoman while Fabian Bredlow started between the sticks. Additionally, Waldemar Anton's return from suspension permitted Angelo Stiller to move back into midfield. Enzo Millot returned to the bench as a result. 

SGE trainer Toppmöller went with five changes following last Friday night's disappointing draw against Bremen. Aurelio Buta and Niels Nkounkou were preferred to Nmadi Collins and Philipp Max in the fullback positions. Hugo Larsson took the place of the suspended Tuta while winter newcomer Jean-Matteo Bahoya filled in for the suspended Dina Ebimbe. Mario Götze unexpectedly came down with pink eye and had to be replaced by Makoto Hasebe. 

Looking awkward in a double split stagger 4-4-2 loosely based on last week's tactics, the Hessen guests had difficulty containing the Swabian hosts from the start. Serhou Grassy gave Hoeneß' side a deserved 1-0 lead in the 11th with an ice-cold finish of an excellent Stiller through-ball. The goal was allowed to stand after a lengthy VAR review overturned an initial on-pitch ruling of offside. 

Six minutes later, Deniz Undav would double the advantage on a goal that featured no such controversy. Undav pounced on a poor throw-in from Nkounkou, stripping Robin Koch off the ball and impressively out-deking Koch's defensive partner Willian Pacho before firing home his 16th league goal of the season. Eintracht were able to mount a light response with some half-chances, but were soon down 0-3. 

Koch again encountered some hard luck in the 37th when he - despite winning an aerial duel against Guirassy - headed the ball straight onto Undav's waiting foot. The newly called up German international picked out his Germany U21 colleague Jamie Leweling, who finished strongly after rounding SGE keeper Kevin Trapp. The hosts then proceeded to take their foot off the gas as the opening 45 drew to a close. 

Toppmöller brought on young French striker Hugo Ekitiké at the break. Together with the top axis north African attacking duo of Omar Marmoush and Fares Chaibi, the RheinMain Eagles were able to create some danger against a Stuttgart side less concerned with extending their lead. Anton, Stergiou, and Bredlow nevertheless remained committed to preserving the clean sheet. 

Bredlow made a pair of notable saves on Marmoush and Ekitiké down the stretch. Frankfurt - following FC Augsburg's home win last night - have ceded valuable ground in their own bid to secure the second Europa League slot. Jess Thorup's Fuggerstädter are only three points behind the SGE ahead of a direct showdown next week. 

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