Coming into the match with a few players unavailable due to suspension, illness and injury, 1899 Hoffenheim fielded a couple of fringe players but still wanted to make up for a couple of disappointing results in the past weeks. The derby against Stuttgart was an excellent opportunity to do exactly that and Ralf Rangnick's side also hoped to end the year 2009 on a high.
Keeper Timo Hildebrand, defender Marvin Compper, midfielder Tobias Weis and striker Demba Ba were all out due to H1N1 infection and as Sejad Salihovic was suspended, it came as a little surprise that Hoffenheim dictated the early proceedings but failed to pounce on Stuttgart's passiveness.
When the hosts then started to settle in the match it didn't take long for them to create the first couple of chances. Christian Träsch saw an effort go wide after Pavel Pogrebnyak's pass, then the Russian international had an opportunity himself but couldn't beat Hildebrand's deputy Daniel Haas. A little more of half an hour had been played when Hoffenheim's Andreas Ibertsberger handled the ball in the box after a corner and the referee awarded a penalty to Stuttgart. Ciprian Marica made no mistake from the spot and made it 1-0 for the hosts.
One minute before half time Hoffenheim bounced back: A stunning free kick by Maicosuel meant the scores were level again and Rangnick's hopes to take three points in this derby were alive again. There was a major setback seven minutes after the restart however as Luiz Gustavo was sent off following a second yellow card. Down to ten men, Hoffenheim did well to keep Stuttgart away from their goal but rarely had the chance to threaten VfB keeper Sven Ulreich, replacing the suspended Jens Lehmann, on the other end.
Stuttgart kept pressing and were rewarded after 68 minutes: Pogrebnyak played a clever ball to Cacau and the striker fired home from short range: 2-1. Hoffenheim's day got worse in the final stages. While desperately searching for an equalizer they were vulnerable in the back and even though Haas did well to keep Gebhart out, he was beaten by Sami Khedira eight minutes from time.
This defeat means TSG 1899 ends the first half of the season with 25 points and in seventh place just shy of the UEFA Europa League berths.
POST MATCH QUOTES
I didn't handle the ball on purpose, everything went really fast. We were not able to keep up after it was 2-1 to Stuttgart and with a man down it is very difficult. There was a lot of snow on the pitch which made things tricky.
There were hardly any chances in first half. We started the second half well until the sending off, and then it was tough to get a grip on the opponent. We made life too easy for Stuttgart. Now we finally have the winter break.
It wasn't an easy match, but we can celebrate Christmas in style. The new coach gave us new momentum and we are finally using our chances. I need to keep my calm in front of the goal.
I was impressed with the determination of my team and you could tell we were out to win this match. Our two strikers worked really hard and when they press aggressively, we're in good shape. The performance of the team generally was pretty compact and we can be happy today.
It was an open match until Luiz Gustavo got sent off and we were certainly not the worse team. The conditions were difficult, but you could tell we were missing several players. A defeat can never be a step forward, but we delivered a good impression for nearly an hour. Overall we should have three to five points more at this point, but we know what we need to improve until the Bundesliga kicks off again.
It wasn't an easy encounter for us. We wanted to be compact and it worked out. When we conceded the second goal it was all over. Unfortunately we now have to celebrate Christmas without the three points which is a shame. The winter break will be good for all of us but we need to switch gears in the second half of the season.