Goals in each half from Sebastian Rudy and Zdravko Kuzmanović gave VfB Stuttgart victory at Rangers FC that maintains their hopes in UEFA Champions League Group G while knocking the Scottish titleholders out of European competition.
Stuttgart, who had gone ten competitive games without a win before travelling to Glasgow, got off to the perfect start when Rudy scored his first UEFA Champions League goal and the 19-year-old midfielder turned provider just before the hour, crossing from the right for Kuzmanović to head in. Third-placed Stuttgart will qualify for the first knockout round with a win at home to FC Unirea Urziceni on 9 December but have at least secured a UEFA Europa League berth as they are now out of the reach of Rangers.
The home fans were delighted to see top scorer Kris Boyd make his first group start as part of an adventurous 3-4-3 formation which included 17-year-old defender Danny Wilson, with Madjid Bougherra relegated to the bench. However, it was the visitors who did most of the early pressing with Arthur Boka particularly prominent on the left. As early as the seventh minute the Ivory Coast left-back fed Cacau inside the box and only a smart save from Allan McGregor prevented the striker from opening the scoring.
It proved to be a temporary respite as Stuttgart broke the deadlock on 16 minutes. Again the move came from the left with Cacau and Aleksandr Hleb working a clever one-two inside the area. Although Pavel Pogrebnyak miskicked from Hleb's cutback, it merely diverted the ball into the path of Rudy, who slotted in from close range. Cacau went close again on the half-hour, cutting in from the left before flashing a shot narrowly wide.
Two minutes later Boyd had Rangers' first meaningful attempt on goal drilling a right foot shot past the post but the striker should have equalised moments later when Kenny Miller expertly picked him out with a cross from the right after Pogrebnyak had surrendered possession in midfield. However, with the goal at his mercy Boyd headed over with only Jens Lehmann to beat. This was the home side's best spell of the first half and before the interval Kyle Lafferty screwed another shot wide after Lehmann had punched clear from a Saša Papac cross.
Rangers switched to a more conventional 4-4-2 formation after the break with Steven Whittaker and Saša Papac moving to full-back and Lee McCulloch stepping into midfield. It gave the home team a more solid shape but Stuttgart still looked the more dangerous side and Kuzmanović doubled their lead just before the hour, arriving unmarked in the box to head in Rudy's cross from the right.
Forced to chase the game Rangers were now exposed at the back and Progrebnyak almost made it three when he cracked a shot off the upright with McGregor beaten while Boka and substitute Julien Schieber also went close. The last ten minutes were played at a pedestrian pace with the home side resigned to their third home defeat of the campaign.