Würzburger Kickers went into the winter break with a superb victory over VfB Stuttgart in the first-ever meeting between the two sides, denying their guests the chance to lead the 2. Bundesliga into the New Year.
Rico Benatelli and Clemens Schoppenhauer gave the hosts a 2-0 half-time lead against a flat Stuttgart, who were punished further towards the end of the game by Nejmeddin Daghfous.
Stuttgart now find themselves in third, level on points with Hannover 96 and two points behind leaders Eintracht Braunschweig, whilst Würzburg finish the half-season sixth, still in reach of the promotion contenders.
Final game before Christmas
Following their promotion from the 3. Liga, Würzburg will have been more than happy with first half season back in 2. Bundesliga, where they have regularly kept up pace with most sides in the league.
For the final game before Christmas, Bernd Hollerbach made two changes from last weekend’s goalless draw with SV Sandhausen, with Benatelli and Valdet Rama replacing Felix Müller and Peter Kurzweg.
After Braunschweig’s goalless draw with Karlsruher SC on Saturday, Stuttgart had the chance to become the 2. Bundesliga’s Herbstmeister and lead the table going into the winter break.
However their six-game unbeaten run was ended by promotions rivals Hannover on Monday night, and Hannes Wolf responded with three changes, with the suspended Timo Baumgartl, Christian Gentner and Matthias Zimmermann replaced by Toni Sunjic, Hajime Hosogai and Alexandru Maxim.
Benatelli and Schoppenhauer punish lacklusture Stuttgart
Stuttgart were perhaps still feeling the after-effects of Monday’s defeat, and were made to look very ordinary in the first half. Half chances aside they offered little, with Takuma Asano at least forcing Robert Wulnikowski into one save, and slowly the hosts became more threatening, with Elia Soriano going wide and Tobias Schröck volleying over the bar.
They took the lead with just over 15 minutes left of the first half. The move was initiated by Soriano, with Rama’s shot off Mitch Langerak striking the post. Benatelli was first to it to put the hosts in front.
After that they dominated the rest of the first half. Daghfous’s threatening ball into the box defected off Toni Sunjic for a corner, before Soriano just failed to connect with another of his crosses. Soriano again then came close, when from a corner Soriano headed goalwards, with Asano keeping it out on the line.
In that context, the second goal was little surprise. From Daghfous’s corner there was a scramble in the box, with Schoppenhauer the first to deliver the vital blow, shooting through the crowd to double the advantage just before half-time.
Daghfous finishes the job
Stuttgart responded with a double change at the break, brining on Jean Zimmer and Zimmermann, but it made little difference, with Asano and Simon Terodde going wide and Sunjic having a header saved by Wulnikowski.
Daghfous then missed the chance to put the game out of reach, with his excellent strike out of the reach of Langerak but the wrong side of the post from Würzburg’s perspective. Stuttgart could have then come back into it, with David Pisot preventing Terodde from pulling the trigger, before Schoppenhauer did likewise with substitute Gentner.
In the end the game was killed off with just over ten minutes left. Zimmer was wrestled off the ball and Würzburg quickly launched the counter. Schröck set up Daghfous, whose first touch directed the ball past Langerak, before from a difficult angle he used his second to place the ball perfectly into the goal.
And despite the time remaining, that was that. A memorable win to cap off a memorable year for Würzburg. However despite going into the winter break in the top three, perfectly placed for a promotion charge in 2017, there was much anger from the away end at the capitalisation when their players went over to them after the game.