Castro strears in last-gasp winner to crown VfB comeback
Joel Pohjanpalo and Aaron Hunt's goals weren't enough for HSV at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, as a stirring second-half comeback from VfB Stuttgart saw the hosts take all three points.
Hamburger SV threw away a two-goal lead as Gonzalo Castro stole all three points for VfB Stuttgart with a 93rd-minute winner on Thursday (28th May). An efficient first-half showing saw the Rothosen enter the half-time break two goals to the good thanks to Joel Pohjanpalo's 16th-minute header and Aaron Hunt's penalty a minute before the half. But the Swabians were on level terms after only 15 minutes of the second period, and, after few chances for either side in the rest of the half, substitute Castro popped up for the winner, to see VfB snatch all three points and leapfrog HSV in the process.
Hamburg double reward for enterprising first half
The Hamburg coaching staff chose to make one change to the starting line-up that saw out a goalless draw with Arminia Bielfeld on Sunday, with Sonny Kittel having to sit out due to an infection, being replaced by Bakery Jatta. The Rothosen, playing all in white, started brightly, dominating possession and letting the backline and midfield lines get a feel of the ball early on. Unlike their previous few outings, Hamburg were rewarded for their early pressure in the 16th minute. Aaron Hunt's floated corner was flicked on at the near post by Stuttgart attacker Nicolás González perfectly for the late-arriving Joel Pohjanpalo at the back post who headed in emphatically for a well-deserved early lead.
The home side gained a foothold in proceedings after the Finn's opener, seeing more of the ball but with little to show for their possession. The Swabians looked most dangerous from set pieces, yet lacked intensity and accuracy in their passing, missing a number of counter-attacking opportunities to catch the Rothosen off-guard. The away side could have been more clinical with a number of chances to counter, but the final pass meant that Gregor Kobel wasn't troubled after the opening quarter of an hour. But Hamburg had a slice of luck on the stroke of half-time, as Timo Letschert headed Aaron Hunt's free-kick onto the arm of Pascal Stenzel, resulting in a penalty for the visitors. Captain Aaron Hunt stepped up and cooly slotted the penalty down the middle, doubling the away side's lead just before half-time. A two-goal lead was perhaps generous after the visitors had let up when a goal to the good, but it was reward for an enterprising first 45 minutes.
Castro snatches all three points at the death
Yet the good work was undone inside the first 15 minutes of the second half, as the hosts equalised after a fast start after the break. The half was barely two minutes old when Philipp Förster was fouled by Josha Vagnoman and the resulting free-kick from Pascal Stenzel just outside the left-hand side of the box near the byline was headed into the far corner by Wataru Endo. The hosts were much more focussed and energetic after the restart, pushing the Rothosen further back into their own half, resulting in the equaliser on the hour mark. A flowing move saw Hamadi Al Ghaddioui flick into the path of former HSV man Orel Mangala, who took the ball round the onrushing Daniel Heuer Fernandes, attracting contact and going down under pressure. Referee Dingert pointed to the spot and González sent Heuer Fernandes the wrong way to place the spot-kick to his right, for his third goal against the Rothosen in three games this season.
The final half an hour was much more equal as both sides lacked the necessary cutting edge to truly threaten either goalkeeper. The Rothosen had a number of dangerous opportunities, but the ball didn't quite fall for Joel Pohjanpalo or the cross into the box wasn't accurate enough to create a clear effort at goal. Two minutes were left on the clock when the Rothosen received a first warning shot across their bows, as Pascal Stenzel's right-footed free-kick from 25 yards out rapped against the left-hand upright. But the warnings weren't heeded, and three minutes into added time, Argentinian international González had the better of Timo Letschert for pace on the left-wing, driving into the box and towards the byline, squaring for Gonzalo Castro who ran straight across Rick van Drongelen, side-footing past Daniel Heuer Fernandes to break Hamburg hearts. A real game of two halves, with Hamburg looking comfortable in the first and able to finish off the chances created. But the knack of conceding from set pieces and late on reared its head once again, as Hecking's troops didn't get started in the second half.
VfB Stuttgart: Kobel - P. Stenzel, M. Kaminski, Badstuber, Mola - Endo, Mangala (82' Castro), P. Förster, Wamangituka (78' Kalajdzic), Gonzalez - Al Ghaddioui (78' Churlinov)
Hamburger SV: Heuer Fernandes - Vagnoman (84' Beyer), Letschert, van Drongelen, Leibold - Fein - Harnik (69' Samperio), Hunt, Dudziak (69' Schaub), Jatta - Pohjanpalo (81' Hinterseer)
Goals: 0-1 Pohjanpalo (16'), 0-2 Hunt (p, 45'+2), 1-2 Endo (47'), 2-2 Gonzalez (61'), 3-2 Castro (90'+3)
Spectators: unfortunately none
Referee: Christian Dingert (Griess)
Yellow cards: Badstuber (45'), Förster (80') / Vagnoman (78'), Hunt (88)
Red cards: - / -