1899 head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli kept faith in the starting eleven that began the match against Bayer 04 Leverkusen last weekend. A familiar face returned to the fold, as U-23 captain Kai Herdling was on the bench for the first time this season. Labbadia on the other hand made a solitary change to the line-up faced Hamburger SV with Cristian Molinaro making way at left-back for Arthur Boka.
The game began at a frantic pace to keep referee Dr. Felix Brych on his toes early on, as the sizzling derby atmosphere made a seamless transition from the stands onto the pitch. Both teams set themselves up in the 4-3-2-1 formation, but despite having relatively little to play for, 1899 were definitely the more lively of the two sides in the opening exchanges. Then, just before the quarter-hour mark Andreas Beck played a long diagonal pass, which forced Serdar Tasci to play an awkward ball back to his keeper, putting him under pressure before he proceeded to miss control the ball with his head, giving it away to the onrushing Peniel Mlapa. All "Penny" had to do was stop the ball and roll it into an empty net for the lead, sending the home fans into hysterics. It was just what the game needed as Boulahrouz almost found the perfect response, but his effort could only clip the outside of the post. Rudy found Mlapa with the resulting clearance only for the youngster to be brought down unceremoniously inside the box. No penalty given, but a rousing start to the derby.
Hoffenheim remained in control of the match, keeping Stuttgart on the back foot and putting them under immense pressure. Just after half hour mark Gylfi Sigurdsson had a chance to extend the lead from long-range, but Ulreich was equal to the effort before Marvin Compper tried his luck only to experience a similar result. It took 38 minutes for referee Brych to produce his first card in the feisty match, showing captain Andreas Beck a yellow. Tom Starke was forced into a fantastic reflex save from the resulting set piece only to be beaten moments later. Cacau beat the oncoming keeper with a delightful flick, but Isaac Vorsah was on hand to save his keeper's blushes and keep the effort out. It was the final chance of an action-packed, high-paced derby as referee Brych brought an end to the first half.
No changes after half time. The teams came out the same and the stunning atmosphere inside the sold-out Rhein-Neckar Arena was unrelenting. Hoffenheim came out after the break looking to calm the game down somewhat, while Stuttgart were determined to get themselves back in the match. Despite that, 1899 were still creating chances as Braafheid, who became a father for the third time this week, floated a delightful cross into the box and only a last-ditch save from Ulreich kept Babel's header at bay, while Mlapa's follow-up was cleared off the line. Rudy and Sigurdsson were next in line to have efforts saved as the Schwaben side seemed to be drifting off into the distance.
It wasn't to be though, as Labbadia reacted by bringing on Pavel Progrebnyak for Shinji Okazaki, before the equalizer came out of nowhere for the away side. Cacau, who was Stuttgart's most dangerous player, found himself one-on-one with Starke after a quick break before slotting through the legs of the helpless keeper. It was a bitter pill to swallow for 1899, who refused to let their heads drop and instead continued to try their luck up front. The man in the middle was then surrounded by a certain element of controversy after a high tackle on Beck that didn't result in a foul only for Vorsah to bring down Harnik inside the box seconds later. Brych pointed to the spot and Kuzmanovic stepped up slotting home into the right hand side of the net and sending Starke the wrong way to make it 1-2. VfB looked more secure having taken the lead as Harnik and Progrebnyak began to flourish in the counter-attacking system Labbadia had in place. Pezzaiuoli had a throw of the dice when he brought on Ibisevic for Beck, which mean that Ibertsberger dropped to right-back, but the luck eluded 1899 for seemingly the umpteenth time this season. This was proven when late on in the match Sigurdsson opted against going over the wall from a free kick only to see his effort come back off the inside of the post. Progrebnyak should have put the nail in the coffin when Starke got caught in no mans land, but he couldn't roll the ball in the gaping net and so it finished with the visitors taking the spoils once again. Hoffenheim faught valiantly during their 100th Bundesliga match, but as it was so many times this season, they can count themselves unfortunate to have been on the losing side.