VfB Stuttgart edged their way to a narrow victory in the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion to ensure they finished as UEFA Cup Group G winners, while ending NK Dinamo Zagreb's qualifying hopes.
Goals from Christian Tiffert and Fernando Meira were enough to take the German team above SL Benfica into first place. Although Ivan Bošnjak had levelled the scores, SC Heerenveen's winning advantage in the group's other game meant that a draw was unlikely to be enough for Dinamo, and Fernando Meira ended their hopes with 15 minutes to go.
Both teams made three changes from their last UEFA Cup fixtures. Stuttgart were without their captain Zvonimir Soldo with a thigh injury, but Aliaksandr Hleb and Fernando Meira were able to take their place in the lineup after doubts about their availability. The Croatian side were also without their captain Niko Kranjcar as well as fellow midfield player Jasmin Agic, through injury and suspension respectively.
Dinamo began aggressively but were always vulnerable to Stuttgart's counterattacks, and the first arrived on four minutes with Kevin Kuranyi sending a shot skidding just past the far upright. The same player had the ball in the Dinamo net shortly afterwards, but the whistle had blown for a foul.
The home team had declared their intent and took a 15th-minute lead. Kuranyi fed Tiffert with a nice pass, and after bringing the ball under control the midfield player skipped around Danijel Pranjic before slipping his shot beyond Vladimir Vasilj. Kuranyi was nearly on the scoresheet himself when Cacau did well to get away from his man. From the pass Kuranyi delivered a hard shot which the goalkeeper turned away at his near post.
Shortly after, Cacau saw a shot palmed onto the bar by Vasilj. Stuttgart had taken an unshakeable hold on the game and their defending did not allow much scope for Dinamo to threaten, but Pranjic did spy an opportunity on being played into space to the left of goal, only to drag his attempt beyond the far post.
Hleb proved a constant driving force in the Stuttgart midfield, and one thrilling run almost put his team two ahead early in the second half. After surging away from three defenders and enticing Vasilj off his line, he pulled the ball back for Cacau who shot disappointingly.
Dinamo rallied but were fortunate to escape when Philipp Lahm attacked with purpose. Cacau, always stretching, again sent his effort off target. Then the visitors earned a free-kick and when it was played in low, Bošnjak nipped in to equalise.
Second for Stuttgart
A second Dinamo goal would really have had Stuttgart panicking, and when Eduardo Da Silva got away down the right Pranjic could not apply a scoring finish to the cross. It was left to Stuttgart to ease their concerns through Fernando Meira. The ball came to the Portuguese player via a fortuitous diversion off Ante Tomic's boot, but the finish was clinical.
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