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Bundesliga

Frankfurt end goal drought but Stuttgart take points

Stuttgart have bagged three key points as they seek to stretch away from the relegation zone. Frankfurt, themselves in a goalless rut of late, took the lead early - but their visitors hit back twice after the break.

Eintracht Frankfurt had gone nearly six weeks without a goal heading into Sunday's encounter against a struggling Stuttgart, who have been the Bundesliga's worst team since the winter break.

The Eagles just got the start they needed against Stuttgart, despite opting not to field a single genuine striker - putting the attacking onus on Takashi Inui and Stefan Aigner instead. It was Aigner who scored the first goal for coach Armin Veh's side since a 2-0 win over Hamburg on February 2.

Captain Pirim Schwegler deserved a lot of credit for his assist, a slide-rule pass picking out Aigner's diagonal run. The German finished calmly, netting his eighth of the season. Stuttgart captain Serdar Tasci was furious with his defensive colleagues for ignoring the Frankfurt forward's movement across the back line.

Stuttgart had a couple of solid chances in the first period, not least a Vedad Ibisevic header that went wide of the post. Had the Bosnian international found the target, a goal was guaranteed, as Frankfurt keeper Kevin Trapp had committed to the cross without getting anywhere near it.

Stuttgart strike from set pieces

Seeking to put some distance between them and in-form Augsburg, who are catching the midfield pack in a bid to escape the relegation zone, Stuttgart started strongly after the break. Bastian Oczipka was called into early action to head a dangerous cross clear at the back post early in the half.

In the subsequent attack, first-half hero Schwegler brought down Arthur Boka in the box, conceding a penalty for Stuttgart. Ibisevic's powerful penalty was well placed, and it wrong-footed Trapp.

Frankfurt sought to retake the lead without success, with Takashi Inui and scorer Aigner both flaunting decent chances to beat Sven Ulreich in the Stuttgart goal. Aigner fed Inui for one particular opportunity on the edge of the box where the Japanese star would have at least wanted to test the keeper.

Despite having fewer shots and less of the ball, Stuttgart were incisive when their chances came - and some poor marking from a corner made the difference. New signing Alexandru Maxim, on as a sub in the second half, swung in a decent delivery that neither Trapp nor the Frankfurt defense appeared particularly keen to reach. Defender Georg Niedermeier arrived unmarked in front of goal and powered home a low header.

Stuttgart, who bowed out of the Europa League on Thursday at the hands of Lazio, held on for a 2-1 win that pushes them up to 12th in the Bundesliga table, leapfrogging Fortuna Düsseldorf, Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg. Floundering Frankfurt remain in fourth courtesy of the three teams directly below them in the table, all of whom also failed to win at the weekend.

Foals stumble into race for Europe

Borussia Mönchengladbach and Hannover both had the chance to add fresh vigor to their race for the top six positions on Sunday evening.

Gladbach players celebrate Luuk de Jong's goal, with a despondent Hannover player in the foreground. (Photo: Bernd Thissen/dpa)

Gladbach's goal was a beauty, the game wasn't

Hosts Gladbach came out on top and climbed to seventh in the table, courtesy of a fantastic goal in an otherwise forgettable game.

Striker Luuk de Jong scored the winner, his fifth in a difficult debut Bundesliga campaign. As was the case with Frankfurt's opener, though, the set-up was much more impressive than the finish.

Hannover's defense stood off Patrick Herrmann, who was roughly 30 meters from goal. The 22-year-old German bided his time, waiting for de Jong's run, and then flicked a short pass through the back line with the outside of his foot. He lifted it marginally off the ground to dodge defensive boots. De Jong made no mistake in front of goal, lift the ball in over the onrushing Ron-Robert Zieler.

Gladbach had to make a defensive change at the break, replacing the injured Juan Arango with Filip Daems, a move that helped put even less spark into the second period than in the already dull first. The game was comparatively evenly-matched throughout, Gladbach had slightly more of the ball, Hannover had three more shots.

The visitors' best chance to tie the score came in the dying moments, when Christian Pander curled a free kick towards Marc-Andre ter Stegen's goal. The young German keeper, who was slighted in favor of Hannover goalie Zieler as third Germany choice in Joachim Löw's squad, met the ball to keep his seventh Bundesliga clean sheet of the season.

The second half was also blighted by Sergio da Silva Pinto talking himself into not one, but two yellow cards in the space of ten minutes. The German's double dose of dissent, culminating in an ironic "thumbs-up" gesture at ref Manuel Gräfer, helped ensure that his Hannover teammates were unable to mount a more substantial late charge.