A late goal from Kevin Kuranyi sealed an impressive 2-1 away win for VfB Stuttgart against Club Brugge KV on a rain-sodden pitch at the Jan Breydelstadion in the UEFA Cup third round tonight.
Kuranyi latched on to a deflected free-kick from substitute Iaonnis Amanatidis in the 90th minute to knock the ball past advancing goalkeeper Dany Verlinden. It was no less than the German side deserved as they came from a goal behind after Peter Van der Heyden had given the home side the lead three minutes before half-time.
Still possible to win
Brugge coach Trond Sollied was quick to praise the Stuttgart tactics in the second period, saying: "Their formation was good but we missed a couple of good chances in the first half. The game really changed when [Birger] Maertens was red carded, which was deserved, but I felt we should have had a draw. The next leg will be difficult but it's still possible."
Came to life
A pedestrian and often stagnant first half came to life only when Van der Heyden drilled the ball into the net from 25 metres following a smart pass from the workaholic Nastja Ceh.
Substitution changed game
The game improved vastly in the second half with the introduction of Stuttgart substitute Amanatidis. He proved a constant threat down the right flank with a succession of precise crosses which went untouched by the Stuttgart forwards as they upped the pace with a series of fluid attacking moves.
Lacking early width
Stuttgart coach Felix Magath felt his team had been lacking width in the first half. "I had to change something and we switched to a 4-3-3 formation to put more pressure on Brugge and played better and better," he said. "
The goals have put us in a very strong position for the second leg."
Defender red carded
Kuranyi was brilliantly denied by Verlinden after 54 minutes when the goalkeeper saved his goal-bound strike at the near post from just three metres. Stuttgart pressed on though and gained their reward in the 72nd minute when Brugge defender Birger Maertens was red carded when he pulled down Jochen Seitz two metres outside the Brugge penalty area.
All Stuttgart now
Stuttgart midfield player Krassimir Balakov compounded the Belgian misery by rifling the resulting free-kick from 25 metres for the equalising goal. It was all Stuttgart after that as the German team broke forward in numbers to try and grab the winner and substitute Ioan Ganea shot over the bar with 13 minutes remaining when well placed.
Yet for all the pressure the game seemed to be heading for a draw until Kuranyi showed his poacher's instincts late on to make Stuttgart odds-on favourites to proceed into the fourth round in two weeks' time.
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