Schulz brace keeps 96 alive
Yes! Hannover 96 surprised Stuttgart with 2-1 victory to keep alive their hopes of survival. Captain Christian Schulz turned the game around with his brace following Werner’s earlier strike for the hosts.
Half a dozen new faces
Thomas Schaaf rung the changes for his starting XI by replacing six players: Captain Schulz returned after his suspension, as well as Sorg, Yamaguchi, Kiyotake and debutants Fossum and Wolf in place of Gülselam (suspended) Milosevic (ill), Albornoz, Bech (torn muscle), Prib and Sobiech. Sané partnered Schulz at centre back, whilst Hoffmann was deployed in defensive midfield. Stuttgart coach Jürgen Kramny was without his side’s top scorer Daniel Didavi (suspended), who was replaced by Alexandru Maxim in the starting XI.
A set piece each in even game
96 started the game with a furious attacking move under the motto “all or nothing”. Just four minutes were on the clock when new signing Fossum forced VfB’s keeper Tyton into a good save. The Norwegian’s 25-yard shot was clawed away from the top corner by the Pole. Five minutes late, Karaman’s solo effort from 19 yards was thwarted again by Tyton. And the guests remained courageous as Karaman again had a shot blocked after good build-up play from Kiyotake. But the Hannover defence went to sleep for a moment at a set piece, and Stuttgart took advantage to take an undeserved lead. There was a lack of organisation at the back which allowed Timo Werner to get on the end of Maxim’s ball into the box and head (or more precisely ‘shoulder’) the ball over Zieler and into the back of the net. That made it 1-0 for a Stuttgart side who had not even turned up yet. Of course, that was a shock to the Reds, and the home side then began to control the game more and more. That was until a defensive lapse of their own at a free kick: Following a foul on Kiyotake, he picked himself up to take the free kick and delivered a wonderful ball from the right-hand side of the box to the far post, where centre back Christian Schulz was on hand to nod the ball under the bar and past Tyton – a deserved equaliser! However, 96 rode their luck a little after that when VfB had two good chances to retake the lead. First of all, Zieler made a top save from Gentner, and then Sorg cleared a Niedermeier header off the line. A quality, entertaining and topsy-turvy first half ended with a shot from 18 yards by Kiyotake, which went just past the right-hand post, and a mishit volley from Großkreutz. Hannover deserved to be level at the break following their courageous performance.
"Schulle" wins it
The second half began with no changes for either side, and they remained even in terms of chances, even though the home side had seen more of the ball. The first danger moment of the half fell to Stuttgart and Werner again, but his header was no problem for Zieler on this occasion. At the other end, Karaman could count himself unlucky as his curling shot was blocked by his own player, Wolf. Just after the hour mark, Sorg became the saviour for the second time in the game when he cleared another shot off the line, this time from Maxim. 96 continued to look for chances, but the final shot from Karaman was weak after a long sprint. Stuttgart, however, should have turned this ebbing and flowing game in their favour in the 75th minute when Kostic evaded Sané and played an immaculate ball to Werner. But the scorer of the opening goal put the ball just wide! The Reds received some deserved luck in this period, and they had Zieler to thank twelve minutes from time for keeping the scores level when he saved brilliantly against the onrushing Kostic.
And it didn’t end there! An almost carbon copy of Hannover’s first goal should have settled the tie for the visitors. Kiyotake again sent in a free kick to the far post following a foul on Karaman, and once again captain Schulz was there to meet it with his head. Tyton initially managed to claw the ball away, but “Schulle” was lightning-quick and bundled the ball over the line! Fossum came close later to extending the lead for 96, but his shot was also weak as the hosts began to throw men forward looking for an equaliser. However, Thomas Schaaf’s defence held tight with some luck and skilfulness. Harnik’s effort went wide and then Zieler saved well from Rupp. After substitute Kravet’s curling shot flew an inch wide of the post, it was time to celebrate!
Reward for courageous performance
96 caused an upset in Stuttgart and made an important step in their efforts to avoid relegation. The Reds were deserving of their first win of 2016, also their first triumph under Thomas Schaaf, following their courageous and attacking performance. There is now a round of midweek fixtures, where Hannover host Wolfsburg on Tuesday, before heading to Bremen on Saturday.
VfB Stuttgart: Tyton - Großkreutz, Schwaab, Niedermeier, Insua - Sirey Dié (75' Harnik)- Rupp, Maxim, Gentner, Kostic - Werner (77' Kravets)
Hannover 96: Zieler - Sakai, Sané, Schulz, Sorg - Hoffmann - Yamaguchi, Fossum (88' Sobiech), Kiyotake (90+1' Anton), Wolf (76' Klaus)- Karaman
Goals: 1-0 Werner (18'), 1-1 Schulz (32'), 1-2 Schulz (83')
Yellow cards: Niedermeier / Hoffmann, Yamaguchi, Sorg
Referee: Sascha Stegemann (Niederkassel)
Photos: deisterpics / firo sportphoto