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Stuttgart secure second with dominant display

VfB Stuttgart 3-0 R. Standard de Liège
Goals at the beginning of each half laid the platform for a dominant Stuttgart to beat their Belgian opponents and finish second in Group C.

Sami Khedira (left) is congratulated by Ciprian Marica
Sami Khedira (left) is congratulated by Ciprian Marica ©Getty Images

Goals at the beginning of each half from Sami Khedira and Roberto Hilbert laid the platform for a dominant VfB Stuttgart to overcome already-qualified R. Standard de Liège and finish second in UEFA Cup Group C.

Khedira set the Bundesliga side on their way after five minutes, while Hilbert got his name on the scoresheet off a pass from Mario Gómez just four minutes into the second period. Ciprian Marica added a third on 72 minutes to lift Markus Babbel's team on to seven points and set up a Round of 32 tie with a team parachuting in from the UEFA Champions League.

First conceded
Group winners Standard had won their previous three group matches without conceding yet they were quickly behind when Marica let a ball from Hilbert run on to Khedira, who dribbled forward and beat Standard goalkeeper Rorys Aragon with a low shot. Stuttgart continued to push forward but were thwarted in their attempts to extend their lead, with Aragon making a fine near-post save from Martin Lanig’s shot 12 minutes later.

Standard efforts
Aragon's opposite number, Jens Lehmann, had been enjoying a quiet evening until Steven Defour, first with a free-kick, tested the former German international twice within the space of three minutes. Stuttgart were still on top, though, and would have doubled their lead midway through the half had a shot by Thomas Hitzlsperger not been cleared off the line after Aragon had made an initial save.

Woodwork struck
The second goal arrived just after the break when Standard, expecting a free kick, stopped, and Gómez played in Hilbert, who blasted the ball into the top corner. The hosts went looking for more and Khedira struck the crossbar after collecting a through ball from Hitzlsperger in the 51st minute, while just three minutes later, an effort from Gómez struck the right post. Marica did make 3-0, with 18 minutes left to play when he collected the ball, turned to create some space and fired back across the face of goal with his left foot from the edge of the penalty area.