Berlin, April 21 (IANS) Relegation-threatened Stuttgart upset third-placed Schalke 3-1 while Emir Spahic’s brace helped Leverkusen secure fourth place at Nuremberg to close the 31st round of the Bundesliga German football league.
Martin Harnik’s brace eased Stuttgart’s relegation worries as the ‘Swabians’ established a four-point gap clear of the relegation zone thanks to a crucial 3-1 home win. Schalke lacked in inspiration whereas Stuttgart earned two second half goals Sunday, reports Xinhua.
Both sides were unable to work out goal scoring opportunities in the opening period and threatening chances remained rare. However, Stuttgart utilised a chance through Harnik, who overcame Schalke custodian Ralf Faehrmann with a header following a dead ball by Daniel Didavi (23rd minute). Schalke’s Klaas Jan Huntelaar missed a cross inside the box to leave the last chance unused before the break.
After the restart, Stuttgart caught Schalke on the hop with two quick goals. Cacau nodded home an assist by Ibrahima Traore to make it two (54th) before Harnik wrapped up his second goal five minutes later.
Schalke scored their consolation (69th) through Adam Szalai to spark hopes. But their efforts remained fruitless as Stuttgart ran down the clock to reap the eighth win of the season. With the result the “VfB” stay on 16th position with 31 points while Schalke remain third with 58.
Elsewhere, Leverkusen inflicted Nuremberg the fourth straight loss to increase the relegation worries of the latter club that sit in second last position with only three rounds to play. Nuremberg pulled one back in the first half but were hapless when Leverkusen gained momentum to score three second half goals.
The ‘Werkself’ grabbed the lead (16th) when Spahic scored from outside the box. Nuremberg remained unfazed and responded just 10 minutes later as Marvin Plattenhardt restored parity with a free kick into the bottom left corner from 25 metres.
The visitors had better chances to break the tie as Gonzalo Castro rattled the woodwork with his free-kick curl. However, Leverkusen had to wait until the 48th minute to regain the lead when Sebastian Boenisch scored his first goal of the season.
Nuremberg failed to put up resistance in the closing period as Leverkusen were not done with scoring. Spahic sealed his brace (80th) after capitalising on a solo run and square pass by Heung Min Son. Robert Hilbert rounded off the 4-1 victory and Leverkusen’s 17th win of the season with three minutes remaining.
Nuremberg stay in 17th position with 26 points whilst Leverkusen defended fourth place, a Champions League playoff spot.