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SC Heerenveen secured their first points in UEFA Cup Group G after Ugur Yildirim's strike midway through the second half proved enough to defeat section leaders VfB Stuttgart at the Abe Lenstra stadium.
The 22-year-old striker collected a poor clearance from Boris Zivkovic and unleashed a shot from eight metres that deflected off Markus Babbel and left Stuttgart goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand helpless. Substitute Yuri Rose missed a golden opportunity to double the lead, and Stuttgart had numerous opportunities to equalise but Heereven held on for three welcome points.
Heerenveen welcomed Hannu Haarala back to the side as coach Gert Jan Verbeek opted to field Stefan Selakovic and Yildirim behind lone striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar in a Christmas tree formation. Silvio Meissner, Zivkovic, Horst Heldt and striker Cacau all returned to Matthias Sammer's starting lineup, and the visitors knew that a win would seal their progress to the knockout stages.
Both sides struggled to cope with the thick blanket of fog that enveloped the ground and most of the first-half chances came from defensive errors rather than attacking endeavour. On 14 minutes Stuttgart left-back Martin Stranzl almost put Hildebrand in trouble with a strong back-pass, but the goalkeeper recovered to clear.
Hildebrand was culpable six minutes later, however, throwing the ball straight at Daniel Berg Hestad but the Norwegian midfield player appeared surprised and failed to capitalise. Kevin Kuranyi then went close at the other end, almost rounding off a sublime move involving Aliaksandr Hleb and Cacau but was denied by desperate last-gasp defending.
In the 34th minute, Brian Vanderbussche appeared not to notice Kuranyi as he took his time over a clearance and only a warning from the capacity crowed alerted the Heerenveen goalkeeper to the danger and he just managed to clear. Zivkovic then came close to scoring an own goal after misjudging a back-header, which looped beyond Hildebrand and just over the bar.
The fog lifted during the interval and both teams' reluctance to commit men forward also disappeared. Within three minutes of the restart, the visitors were almost rewarded for their adventure when Babbel and Kuranyi both went close within a minute but Vanderbussche was equal to the task on each occasion.
The deadlock was finally broken on 65 minutes when Yildirim scored his second of the competition. Rose then missed a gilt-edged chance after springing the offside trap but he took an age to finally shoot past Hildebrand, allowing Stranzl time to recover and block on the line.
From that moment on the Bundesliga outfit created numerous chances and in the last ten minutes Christian Tiffert, Zivkovic and Meissner could all have gained Stuttgart a share of the spoils. Heerenveen held on for the victory, however, and will now travel to face NK Dinamo Zagreb on 2 December on three points, three fewer than Stuttgart who face the same opposition 13 days later.
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