Nicólas González inspired VfB Stuttgart to a 3-2 win in their big promotion clash with Hamburger SV, who they move above back into second in the table.
They had been poor in the first half with Hamburg going 2-0 up through Joel Pohjanpalo and an Aaron Hunt penalty.
Wataru Endo then got on back, González levelled from the spot, and with Hamburg unable to respond, Gonzalo Castro hit the winner in stoppage time.
González lifts the pressure from Matarazzo
Stuttgart’s decision to extend Pellegrino Matarazzo’s contract the day before had caused much surprise following two defeats since the season resumed and with only one point won in four games. Even if the club had backed their coach, the pressure was very much on them to get a result here, as a Hamburg victory would have left them four points clear and on course for automatic promotion.
Die Roten, or rather Die Schwarzen as they were here, barely turned up in the first half and that Hamburg win looked inevitable. A simple change made by Matarazzo at half-time helped to change the momentum though. Silas Wamangituka was moved from left to right and González, effectively playing alongside Hamadi Al Ghaddioui in the first half, went onto the left.
Within minutes a free-kick won by González led to Endo’s goal back. The Argentinian then scored the equalising penalty and his performance was capped off right at the death as his cross found Castro for the dramatic finale to the game.
“We had nothing to lose after the second goal and wanted to give everything we had to turn the game around,” said a relieved Matarazzo after the match. “Fortunately, we succeeded. We are happy about the victory.” He will now be hoping that this is the turning point for their season.
Hamburg in control
The first half had been a very different game. Hamburg were the more adventurous side in the early stages, with a chance for Martin Harnik saved by Gregor Kobel. A threatening ball from Hunt then threatened to dip in, with Kobel rushing back to tip it over. Hunt’s corner then led to the opening goal. González was the first to meet it but his header only pushed the ball into further danger. Pohjanpalo met it ahead of Endo, and Hamburg led.
Pohjanpalo was sending an early signal to criticism in the press following a weak showing in front of goal against leaders Arminia Bielefeld on Sunday. It had been suggested he would make way for Bakary Jatta here, but in the end Sonny Kittel missed out with an infection, so he kept his place and justified his inclusion in the best possible way. That he had only more chance, shooting wide just after the goal, didn’t seem to matter at this stage.
Matarazzo admitted that his team had “felt the pressure after the past two defeats,” and it clearly showed. Wamangituka and González had sights of goal, whilst Holger Badstuber also took aim from outside the box. Anything threatening sent toward Hamburg’s goal though was easily claimed by Daniel Heuer Fernandes. In fairness though, Hamburg’s defence was looking very solid. Josha Vagnoman, for instance, mostly kept Wamangituka in his pocket, whilst also providing an attack threat down his side’s right.
A professional performance up to now paid dividends at the end of the half. Badstuber gave away a free-kick, from which a Timo Letschert header went into the out-stretched arm of Pascal Stenzel. Christian Dingert pointed to the spot – a debatable decision, given Letschert had a good amount of his shirt and there was little Stenzel could do about the handball. Anyway, Hunt sent Kobel the wrong way and Hamburg doubled their lead.
HSV fail to respond to Stuttgart recovery
The comeback began soon after the break. Stenzel’s free kick found Endo, who was given the freedom of the box as the Hamburg defence fell over themselves to make space. Then Orel Mangala, on loan last year with Hamburg, ran into the box but appeared to lose his footing as Heuer Fernandes rushed out. It was an easy move for him to go down completely, the referee gave the penalty, and González was as cool as Hunt from the spot.
Hamburg had been sat back since going ahead, which was fine until Stuttgart stated showing their quality, but now they had to start playing again, which was easier said than done. Dieter Hecking brought on Louis Schaub and Jairo Samperio, followed later by Lukas Hinterseer, but the trio could not bring the impetus that Hamburg badly needed, and Hecking simply unable couldn’t encourage them to push through the gears.
Stuttgart: Kobel; Stenzel, Badstuber, Kaminski, Mola; Wamangituka (Churlinov 78’), Mangala (Castro 82’), Endo, Förster; González (Kempf 90+4’), Al Ghaddioui (Kalajdzic 78’).
Hamburg: Heuer Fernandes; Vagnoman (Beyer 84‘), Letschert, van Drongolen, Leibold; Fein, Dudziak (Schaub 69‘), Hunt; Harnik (Samperio 69‘), Pohjanpalo (Hinterseer 81‘), Jatta.
Goals: Endo (47‘), González (61’ P), Castro (90+2’); Pohjanpalo (16‘), Hunt (45+2‘ P).
Referee: Christian Dingert.
Their ponderous was summed up about five minutes from time. Jairo and the disappointing Bakary Jatta couldn’t get a shot away with Hunt, the last to have a go, seemingly unable to meet the ball at all. At the other end, Macedonian youngster Darko Churlinov forced a save from Heuer Fernadnes, before a Stenzel free-kick hit the post.
And then came the winner. Hunt gave away the ball to Englishman Clinton Mola up field, and it eventually arrived with González. He charged down the left, brushed off the attention of Letschert, before crossing in. Castro had himself rushed into the box and put the ball home. A massive goal to end Stuttgart’s malice. Suddenly, the pressure is all Hamburg’s with six games left.
“This is an extremely bitter evening for us, we are disappointed,” said Hecking after the game. “In the end you have to be smarter, take a point and not run into a counterattack again. Now it is a matter of winning against Wehen (Wiesbaden), by whatever means.” They met Wehen on Sunday, when Stuttgart play Dynamo Dresden.