Bruno Labbadia’s side fail to show any consistency as they surrender 2-0 advantage
By Colin StoneFollow @JfGpodcasts
So it appears that it’s not just Schalke who, like a clumsy dog-walker, seemingly cannot hold onto a lead.
Huub Stevens’ Royal Blues have been berated and castigated in recent weeks for their insipid attempts to turn their dominance over the 90 minutes into victories, especially after their embarrassing 3-2 loss to Hoffenheim a week ago; but by the same token, Stuttgart should also be on the receiving end of some vitriolic abuse.
Despite surging into a 2-0 lead and looking comfortable for the vast majority of the game on Sunday, the home side somehow contrived to concede four goals in a barmy 17-minute period to go down 4-2 to Mirko Slomka’s Hannover.
Stuttgart looked assured going forward in the opening stages, forcing some fine stops from Ron-Robert Zieler in the Hannover goal, but it was only 20 minutes before Christian Gentner opened the scoring.
Raphael Holzhauer’s cross from the right-wing evaded everyone in the penalty area, but the ball fell kindly for his Stuttgart teammate, who coolly slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
Vedad Ibisevic, a constant thorn in the side of the Hannover defence, doubled the home team’s advantage from the spot after Gentner was fouled by Szabolcs Huszti in the 36th minute.
However, Stuttgart not only crumbled, but completely buckled in the second half, as goals from Sobiech (56), a Schlaudraff penalty (64) and an Abdellaoui double (67, 72 pen) sealed a shocking comeback.
Stuttgart manager Bruno Labbadia, who spent much of the first half bouncing around his technical area as he encouraged his team forward, stood motionless with his hands in his pockets as the full-time whistle was blown.
However, the referee’s whistle was tough to hear over the chorus of whistles emanating from around the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
The loss was only Hannover’s second away win of the season.
Despite a typically slow start to the season, Stuttgart’s form had perked up in recent weeks, with the former champions picking up 11 points from their last five games.
However, it may have been Labbadia’s ominous warning just a few days prior to Sunday’s match about refusing to extend his contract “unless conditions are right” that threw his team off their stride.
Surprisingly though, supporters of the Swabians are no strangers to such see-sawing Stuttgart sides.
Although the team managed to win the Bundesliga in 2006-07, as well as end the 2009 campaign in 3rd behind shock winners Wolfsburg, disappointing 6th place finishes in 2008, 2010 and 2012 have contrasted sharply with the success of previous seasons.
The 2010-11 season is also one that fans of Die Schwaben would rather forget, as the side briefly flirted with relegation before the appointment of Bruno Labbadia rescued Stuttgart from the clutches of the inept Christian Gross and the ignominy of demotion to the second division.
Although falling through the trapdoor of the top league seems unlikely this season for a side playing in the Europa League, Stuttgart could well find themselves in a bottom-of-the-table scrap if consistency cannot be found.
Elsewhere in Germany over the weekend, Wolfsburg continued their recent resurgence in form with a 3-1 win over a disappointing Bayer Leverkusen.
Brazilian playmaker Diego danced his way back into the hearts of the Wolves’ faithful with a volley and a spectacular free-kick, as well as an assist for Bas Dost, just a fortnight after Felix Magath was sacked.
The weekend double made it three in three games for the midfielder, who seems to be recapturing the form of his glory days in Bremen.
Gameweek 11 Results
Augsburg 1-3 Borussia Dortmund
Bayern Munich 2-0 Eintracht Frankfurt
Fortuna Dusseldorf 1-1 Hoffenheim
Freiburg 0-0 Hamburg
Greuther Furth 2-4 Borussia M’Gladbach
Mainz 2-1 Nuremberg
Schalke 2-1 Werder Bremen
Stuttgart 2-4 Hannover
Wolfsburg 3-1 Bayer Leverkusen