Ibisevic returns to haunt Hoffenheim

1899 Hoffenheim fell to a 2-1 defeat at home to local rivals VfB Stuttgart in the WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar-Arena. Stuttgart's two goals came from a familiar face to Hoffenheim fans, as former TSG hitman Vedad Ibisevic returned to his old club to net a brace. Hoffenheim's reply came from a second half penalty through Sejad Salihovic.

Manager Markus Babbel made four changes to Hoffenheim side which was beaten 7-1 by FC Bayern München last weekend. Captain Andreas Beck returned from suspension to take his place at right back, while Fabian Johnson came in as a late replacement for Edson Braafheid on the left side of defence. Isaac Vorsah was dropped to the bench in favour of Daniel Williams and Tobias Weis made way for Peniel Mlapa, as Babbel opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Ryan Babel once again leading the attack.

Ibisevic marks his return

Typical of any derby game, the match got off to a frenetic start. Hoffenheim came out of the blocks quickly and Peniel Mlapa almost found himself clean through on goal, but was denied by a combination of Sven Ullreich and Georg Niedermeier before he could get his shot away. It was the away side which then recorded the first effort on goal, as Tom Starke parried away a fierce angled drive from Vezdan Kuzmanovic (4'). Stuttgart looked dangerous on the break and so it proved, as they took the lead on the night just four minutes later. Khalid Boulahrouz advanced down the wing and clipped a pass over the top for Ibisevic, who slotted under the advancing Starke (8').

VfB had a foothold in the game and had knocked the wind out of Hoffenheim's sails. The home side were having trouble holding onto the ball, and it was Stuttgart that enjoyed the next good chance. After a corner was recycled, Boulahrouz found space inside the box to glance a header goalwards, but Starke was again there to deny him with a strong hand (19'). Hoffenheim's first attempt at goal arrived three minutes later. Sebastian Rudy swung in a corner from the right and Ryan Babel reached the ball first, but his firmly struck half-volley went wide of the target (23').

Sucker punch second

There was plenty of huff and puff from Hoffenheim, typified by the tireless running of Babel, Mlapa and Roberto Firmino. But they found chances hard to come by against a determined Stuttgart backline, with Babel's lofted header being the closest they came (37'). Then just before the break, Stuttgart struck again. It was the same two players which combined for the first goal, as Boulahrouz's precise cross was met by the head of Ibisevic for 2-0 (43'). The teams went into the break and Hoffenheim had their work cut out for in the second half.

There was one change to the 1899 line-up for the second half, as Salihovic came on to replace Rudy, who had taken a knock. The game followed a similar pattern to the first period, as both sides had opportunities. Kuzmanovic blasted over from a corner, before Mlapa then came close when he beat two defenders and charged into the box, but his poked finish was palmed away by the onrushing Ullreich (55'). The 21-year-old then had two further snap-shots at goal, one which flew over the bar and another which Ullreich was able to gather. Stuttgart remained dangerous themselves and almost grabbed a third goal against the run of play just before the hour-mark. Julian Schieber sprinted clear, but his touch was heavy and Starke was able to deflect his shot behind (59').

2-1, renewed hope

Firmino then missed a great chance when he skewed wide following excellent work by Babel, before Starke kept his team in it with another point-blank save from Schieber (68', 72'). The home side had been especially threatening since the restart and they finally got the reward their attacking bravery deserved in the 74th minute. Johnson was scythed down by VfB defender Maza and referee Günter Perl had no option but to award a spot-kick, which Salihovic converted with aplomb. By then it was one-way traffic, with TSG putting Stuttgart under concerted pressure. The elusive equaliser nearly came when Boris Vukcevic's drive was saved by Ullreich, before he quickly smothered at the feet of Salihovic (83').

The Bosnian then went close yet again when he side-footed wide from six yards after Vukcevic's cutback (86'). But despite a heroic second half display, Hoffenheim couldn't find a second goal and the referee brought proceedings to a close, condemning them to a second consecutive defeat. Their next game in the Bundesliga is a tricky away clash at Borussia Mönchengladbach on matchday 27.

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