You can probably call that the Midas touch: Werkself coach Gerardo Seoane brought in Mitchell Bakker, Robert Andrich, Charles Aránguiz, Karim Bellarabi and Patrik Schick making five changes to the side that started in the 2-1 win against Ferencvaros - and only 90 seconds had been played when three of them were involved in delivering an early lead for the Werkself: Schick controlled the ball on the left of the penalty area and laid it off to the advancing Bakker who hit a sweet cross to the far post. Andrich had made space for himself and perfectly headed the ball back across the keeper Florian Müller into the far corner – the first goal for our new signing in a Werkself shirt (2').
The goalscorer was playing alongside Aránguiz in holding midfield as Seoane had to manage without the injured Exequiel Palacios. Kerem Demirbay started on the bench - as did Daley Sinkgraven, Amine Adli and Lucas Alario, who all started against Ferencvaros.
Despite the many changes and the significantly shorter build-up than the opposition, the Werkself were alert from the start and determined with their pressing, focused on challenges and almost always a step ahead of the hosts. As was the case on 19 minutes when Florian Wirtz cleverly pinched the ball from the rapidly-advancing Marc Oliver Kempf and then broke through down the right. He put in a perfect centre and Schick had a tap-in from close range.
The Werkself were in full control and Stuttgart struggled to get into the game and it appeared everything was going to plan for Bayer 04. However, the goalscorer Andrich put in a very late challenge on Tanguy Coulibaly in the middle of the park connecting with the Stuttgart player’s knee. Referee Benjamin Cortus initially produced a yellow card but he changed that to a red after viewing the incident in the review area on the advice of the VAR (31').
The game turned round in favour of Stuttgart who pulled a goal back with their first chance: A cross from a free kick by Omar Marmoush was headed goalwards by the unmarked Konstantinos Mavropanos. Lukas Hradecky made a brilliant save but was unable to keep out Mangala's follow-up shot (38'). Seoane reacted immediately by strengthening the centre of midfield by bringing on Demirbay for Bellarabi (39') but VfB had the upper hand up to half-time with Hradecky saving a hard-hit shot from distance from Kempf (44').
There was more bad news after the restart. First, Aránguiz had to be treated after being fouled by Wataru Endo. The Chilean was able to carry on after lengthy treatment but then Schick had to be substituted due to injury. He was replaced by Piero Hincapie making his Bundesliga debut as Bayer 04 change to a back five (50'). Stuttgart continued to press. Hradecky pulled off a great flying save to keep out a header from Marmoush (51') who shortly after that was off target with a long-range effort (53').
The tactical reorganisation paid off. The Werkself were now more compact at the back and were able to again and again mount counter-attacks with two decent chances coming from Moussa Diaby: First, Müller saved his smart volley (54') and then he ended a counter-attack from a good position with a shot into the side netting on the hour mark. VfB continued to attempt to get back into the match but it was the Werkself who were the more dangerous team during this phase: Kempf deflected a Viet shot over the bar (67') and Bakker's header from a Demirbay corner also flew over the bar (69').
Truly remarkable: The absolutely incredible determination shown by the Werkself in working against the ball. Our lads fought like lions, and again and again came out on top in challenges despite having a player less on the pitch – and that was how they scored to make it 3-1. Demirbay and Wirtz stuck to their task in midfield and force Stuttgart into making mistakes with Wirtz finally breaking through and away. The youngster took aim in the box in front of the away fans and fired the ball into the far corner – a goal marked by sheer determination (70').
And he continued in the same vein. Wirtz and Diaby were not above putting in full shift in defence and they were full of running, Demirbay battled in midfield and the back five did an outstanding job: Jonathan Tah and Odilon Kossounou cleared everything there was to clear and Hincapie made a very impressive debut. In spite of having the extra man, Stuttgart only had one real chance through Marmoush (79'). The Werkself also came to the six minutes of added time unscathed to seal an extremely impressive victory playing with 10 men for much of the game just three days after the Europa League match.
Good news for Bayer 04: After this huge effort, the team now have a week before the next game on Saturday, 25 September (kick-off: 15.30 CEST) at the BayArena against Mainz 05 who are level on points with the Werkself.
VfB Stuttgart: Müller - Mavropanos, Ito (Stenzel 60'), Kempf, Sosa - Karazor (Klement 71’) - Mangala (Al Ghaddioui 60'), Endo - Massimo (Klimowicz 71’), Marmoush, Coulibaly (Beyaz 83’)
Bayer 04: Hradecky - Frimpong, Kossounou, Tah, Bakker - Andrich, Aránguiz - Bellarabi (Demirbay 39’), Wirtz (Amiri 86’), Diaby (Adli 86’) - Schick (Hincapie 50’)
Goals: 0-1 Andrich (2’), 0-2 Schick (19’), 1-2 Mangala (38’), 1-3 Wirtz (70’)
Booked: Karazor, Coulibaly - Frimpong, Bakker, Aránguiz
Sent off: Andrich (31’, serious foul play)
Referee: Benjamin Cortus (Röthenbach a. d. Pegnitz)
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