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Stuttgart stun Steaua to remain in the hunt

FC Steaua Bucureşti 1-5 VfB Stuttgart
Both sides remain in contention to reach the last 32 after Stuttgart inflicted the Group E leaders' heaviest ever home defeat in UEFA competition.

Goalscorers Serdar Tasci (right) and Martin Harnik celebrate a goal
Goalscorers Serdar Tasci (right) and Martin Harnik celebrate a goal ©AFP/Getty Images

VfB Stuttgart boosted their chances of qualifying for the UEFA Europa League round of 32 with a historic victory against FC Steaua Bucureşti in Romania.

First-half goals from Serdar Tasci, Martin Harnik, Gotoku Sakai and Shinji Okazaki put the German side in a commanding position at the break, before Okazaki added a fifth on 55 minutes. Mihai Costea reduced the arrears with seven minutes to play, but first-placed Steaua had long since been condemned to their first loss in Group E.

Stuttgart – who have climbed within two points of Steaua after this result – came flying out of the blocks and took the lead after just five minutes, Tasci heading home emphatically from Zdravko Kuzmanović's pinpoint corner. Kuzmanović also played a part in the second, curling in a free-kick that Steaua goalkeeper Ciprian Tătăruşanu could only claw into the path of Harnik, who made no mistake from close range.

By this stage the Bundesliga visitors were attacking with fluidity and conviction, and their next two goals were beautifully worked. Okazaki was the architect of the third, beating his man on the left flank before squaring to Sakai, whose stunning first-time effort gave Tătăruşanu no chance. Sakai returned the favour eight minutes later, whipping over a cross from which Okazaki powered a header into the far corner.

Stuttgart began the second period as they ended the first, Okazaki rifling in his second following a goalmouth scramble. Further opportunities fell to Kuzmanović and Vedad Ibišević but the goal rush was over, leaving Bruno Labbadia's men to see out the remaining minutes in front of an understandably subdued National Arena. Costea did manage a late consolation for the group leaders but that could not prevent their heaviest home defeat in UEFA competition.