Stuttgart hammer 10-man Hamburg to take playoff advantage
Stuttgart took a major step towards securing Bundesliga status for another season on Thursday by thrashing 10-man Hamburg 3-0 at home in the first leg of the relegation playoff.
Fresh from an impressive end to the season with only one loss in their last eight matches, Stuttgart broke the visitors' resolve early, former Arsenal defender Konstantinos Mavropanos heading in after just 44 seconds.
The home side added two goals in three minutes early in the second half, before Hamburg were reduced to 10 men when Anssi Suhonen saw red for a high kick just nine minutes after coming off the bench.
Stuttgart defender Waldemar Anton called on his side to "bring the same hunger" to Monday's return leg.
"The season is close to the end. We've got one final step to take and if we play like we did today, I think we'll make it."
Hamburg, who narrowly lost in last year's relegation playoff to Hertha Berlin, now need a major turnaround in Monday's return leg at home to have any hope of first division action next season.
"We've still got a second leg" said Hamburg captain Sebastian Schonlau.
"The chance hasn't increased, but it is still there," he added.
Stuttgart took the lead after less than a minute, centre-back Mavropanos heading in a Chris Fuehrich corner.
The home side showed a fluency that belied their lowly table position, Hamburg hanging on by their fingertips thanks to the acrobatic goalkeeping of Daniel Heuer Fernandes.
Fernandes saved a Serhou Guirassy penalty moments after swallowing up a low strike from the Guinean to keep Hamburg in the game.
Stuttgart went into the dressing room just a goal to the good at half-time, but hurtled out of the blocks in the second half, scoring two goals in three minutes to take a commanding lead.
Hamburg-born and raised Josha Vagnoman slammed home an Enzo Millot cross while unmarked, electing not to celebrate among his elated teammates.
Guirassy added another shortly after, making good on his penalty miss.
Any chance Hamburg had of mounting a comeback was dampened with 20 minuted to go, substitute Suhonen shown a straight red after a high kick on Vagnoman.
Six-time Bundesliga winners and one of only three German clubs to have won the Champions League, Hamburg have been in the second division for five seasons.
Since the playoff system was re-instituted in the 2008-09 season, the second division team has won the playoff only on three of 14 occasions.
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