Interim VfB Stuttgart coach Jens Keller praised the "solid unit" that secured a third Group H win against Getafe CF, belying domestic struggles which have left them with just four Bundesliga points.
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VfB Stuttgart's Bundesliga start has been so wretched, Christian Gross was sacked as coach last week. Yet in the UEFA Europa League there has been no stopping them, and the Swabians secured their third straight Group H win at home to Getafe CF on Thursday.
It was the second match at the helm for interim coach Jens Keller, the former assistant to Gross. While his side were held 2-2 by fellow strugglers FC Schalke 04 on Saturday, keeping Stuttgart bottom despite a promising performance, Ciprian Marica's 29th-minute goal saw off Getafe 1-0 and took VfB on to nine points, five more than they have totalled in eight league games.
Not surprisingly, Keller entered the press conference with a relieved smile on his face. "We have reached today's goal and picked up three points," he said. "It was also important that we did not concede a goal. Overall, we can be pleased. We have received a certain boost with this game. I was only a bit angry about the way we squandered our chances at the end, but overall we were a solid unit and hardly allowed them anything."
Stuttgart have won only once in the Bundesliga so it is no surprise that the UEFA Europa League experience is giving the players a boost. "Following the Schalke game, this was our next small step – this surely gives us confidence for the coming tasks," said goalkeeper Sven Ulreich, while midfielder Christian Träsch added: "We continued where we left off against Schalke. We had some nice moves and did not allow them much. We just have to take our chances much better."
It is true that Getafe seldom troubled a Stuttgart back line that has conceded 17 league goals, but visiting striker Javier Arizmendi believes his side could have avoided defeat. "We cannot be pleased with the result, as we have not taken our chances," he said. "Now we have to learn from our mistakes and use the remaining three games to reach the next round."
Goalkeeper Oscar Ustari, whose team are six points adrift of Stuttgart in sixth, was not surprised about Stuttgart's display. "We knew that it would become a difficult match against a strong side, even though their position in the league is not good," said Ustari, whose team welcome VfB on 4 November. "Unfortunately we didn't perform."
Marica, who used a rebound from his own shot to score, put the victory down to a week of Stuttgart graft. "It was a hard-fought win today," he said. "My goal was a reward for the hard work we have done did in recent days."