VfB Stuttgart 3-1 1. FC Union Berlin: Swabians take control at the top with crucial victory over promotion hopefuls

VfB Stuttgart secured an all-important three points against promotion hopefuls 1. FC Union Berlin to take a three point lead at the top of the 2. Bundesliga with just four games remaining of the season.

Alexandru Maxim's 29th minute free-kick opened the scoring before the division's top scorer Simon Terodde netted his 20th of the season to secure the Swabians' third consecutive win.

Sebastian Polter pulled one back for the visitors in the second-half but substitute Daniel Ginczek capitalised on a defensive error to put the game beyond all doubt and put Stuttgart in the driving seat in the race for the title.

Wolf's sole change put Stuttgart on the path to victory

Stuttgart manager Hannes Wolf made just the one change from last week's 3-2 win at Arminia Bielefeld as Berkay Özcan made way for Josip Brekalo in what was a more attacking line-up from the hosts, while Union Berlin fielded the same team that beat Kaiserslautern 3-1 last weekend.

The opening ten minutes saw the hosts on top, with Maxim going close from 20 yards after a driving run minutes before Kristian Pedersen's last ditch challenge prevented Takuma Asano from going through on goal.

Steven Skrzybski was the bright spark for the visitors in their spell of possession, as he tested Mitch Langerak with a volley from the edge of the area and also saw a driven strike from a quick free-kick tipped over the bar by the Aussie keeper.

Union Berlin's big chance came on 27 minutes from a corner kick, but Polter somehow sent his header wide from just five yards out and they were made to pay for wasting such an opportunity two minutes later.

Ginczek's goal put the game beyond all doubt as Union Berlin shot themslves in the foot,

Union Berlin failed to make their lifeline count

Stuttgart won a free-kick just outside of the area and up stepped the confident Maxim, who caught Daniel Mesenhöler off guard by curling the ball towards the far post with the keeper's early dive in the opposite direction leaving him with little chance of recovery as he could only help the ball into the net.

The hosts wasted no time in taking control of the game and doubled their lead on 34 minutes through top scorer Terodde, who seems to be unable to miss whenever he gets a sniff of goal.

Emiliano Insua won back possession in the Stuttgart half and fed Ebenezer Ofori, who drove towards the right flank and set away Brekalo who found Terodde with a precise low cross and from then on there was only one outcome as the German swept into the far corner to make it 2-0.

Union Berlin hauled themselves back into the game on 58 minutes through Polter, who made amends for his first-half miss with an impressive leap and headed finish from Christopher Trimmel's cross from the right flank.

Stuttgart should have restored their two goal advantage almost instantly as Maxim raced forward and laid off Brekalo inside the area, but the Croatian sliced well wide of the mark to the sound of audible groans around the Mercedes-Benz Arena.

The hosts recovered their two goal advantage on 69 minutes, and they had the self-destruction of the Union Berlin defence to thank for it.

Toni Leistner took what seemed like an age to decide what to do with the ball and before he knew it substitute Ginczek had stolen the ball from him and played a one-two with Terodde before sliding into the far corner for his second of the season.