Stuttgart down Rangers to keep Champions League hopes alive

VfB Stuttgart kept alive their Champions League hopes on Tuesday night, beating Glasgow Rangers side 2-0 at Ibrox.

Stuttgart down Rangers to keep Champions League hopes alive
Photo: DPA

Stuttgart now have six points in Group G will now have to defeat Romanian side Unirea Urziceni to advance to the knockout stage.

Sebastian Rudy fired the Germans into a first-half lead before Kris Boyd, in his first Champions League start, missed a golden chance to head the hosts level.

Zdravko Kuzmanovic’s header in the second period condemned Rangers to a third consecutive home defeat in the competition after 4-1 thrashings at the hands of both Sevilla and Unirea Urziceni in their previous run-outs.

The result, combined with Unirea’s surprise win against Sevilla, leaves Rangers isolated at the bottom of Group G on just two points from five games.

Rangers manager Walter Smith conceded that his side’s woeful home record had cost them dearly – they lost all three matches.

“That has been our biggest problem over the three home matches we’ve had considering the fact we’ve taken points and looked comfortable away,” Smith said.

“We have never looked that way at home.”

His Stuttgart counterpart Markus Babbel was delighted after his side won for the first time in 11 matches.

“Defensively and offensively we were very good,” Babbel said. “The only little hitch was that we maybe could have scored more.”

He had sprung a surprise before kick-off when he dropped captain Thomas Hitzlsperger to the bench whilst Smith named a virtually unchanged side from the one which defeated Kilmarnock at the weekend with Kyle Lafferty replacing Steven Naismith due to injury.

Smith set his side up with three at the back and the Rangers players looked uncomfortable as they tried to get used to their new formation.

Brazilian-born German international Cacau was the first to test Allan McGregor with a fierce shot from 20 yards which the keeper did well to turn round for a corner.

The Germans were dominating possession and took the lead in the 16th minute through Rudy. Alexander Hleb got to the by-line and Pavel Pogrebnyak’s miscued effort from his cut-back fell kindly for Rudy at the back post to slot it low past McGregor.

Things could have been worse for Rangers two minutes later when Kuzmanovic thought he had scored direct from a free-kick which evaded everyone in the box but the linesman had flagged Matthieu Delpierre offside.

Rangers, who had reverted to a back four, started to get a foothold in the final 15 minutes. Boyd had their first shot after 32 minutes when he spun on the edge of the box and sent in a low drive which Jens Lehmann watched go by his post.

Boyd then missed a golden chance to level things in the 37th minute. Miller cut out a Stuttgart break on the right and swung over an early cross to the penalty spot where Boyd, normally lethal from that range, headed harmlessly over the bar.

Rangers threw men forward in the second-half as they chased an equaliser and Stuttgart exploited this to double their lead in the 59th minute.

Lehmann cleared a Rangers attack to Rudy and his cross found Kuzmanovic at the back post who had the simple task of nodding home.

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EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for attending German football matches

The German Bundesliga kicks off on Friday evening with a match in Mönchengladbach. Here's a run-down of the Covid rules for football fans itching to join the crowds at the stadium.

EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for attending German football matches
Crowds cheer at a match between FC Kaiserslautern and Borussia Mönchengladbach, on August 9th, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uwe Anspach

All eyes will be on Mönchengladbach this evening as the Bundesliga season kicks off with a match against reigning champions Bayern Munich – and this time, a crowd will be present in the stadium.

READ ALSO: German football fans get green light to return to stadiums next season

With several states liberalising their rules for public gatherings in recent months, many football fans are looking forward to enjoying a lively atmosphere at football matches once more. 

There’s just one problem: there are different rules for different stadiums. Here’s what you need to know about the Covid rules before you book your ticket for any of the upcoming fixtures. 

How many fans are allowed in the stadiums? 

According to a recent decision by the federal and state governments, football stadiums around the country are allowed to fill half of their seats and sell up to 25,000 tickets to fans. 

Of course, how much this limit affects the overall atmosphere – and the football clubs’ bottoms lines – depends on the capacity of the stadium. In Borussia Dortmund this weekend, the full 25,000 tickets have been sold – but that only equates to 30 percent of the stadium’s full capacity.

READ ALSO: German football: Which Bundesliga club should I support?

Meanwhile, in the stadium owned by Berlin’s FC Union, selling just 11,000 tickets is enough to fill half of the available seats. 

What do I need to show to get in? 

That really depends on the stadium in question, although in general anyone over the age of six will need to show a negative test or proof of vaccination or recovery – the so-called ‘3G’ rule – to enter the grounds. But other clubs, such as FC Cologne, have decided to only permit people who are vaccinated or recovered to attend matches from August 28th onwards – with exceptions for people who can’t get vaccinated, like children and pregnant woman.

At Mönchengladbach’s Borussia Park stadium, however, unvaccinated fans can enter with a negative test, though visitors who’ve stayed in a high-risk or virus variant area over the past two weeks will be unable to enter – along with people who’ve had recent contact with someone who has Covid. 

If you want to see action like this at FC Cologne’s stadium, you’ll need to get your Covid jabs sorted first. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund has taken a middle ground. While the 3G rule applies in principle, only 1,000 of the available 25,000 tickets will be sold to people who are providing a negative test. The remaining 24,000 seats will only be available for those who are vaccinated against – or recently recovered from – Covid. 

If you’re not vaccinated and are keen to see a match, it’s worth checking on your local club’s website beforehand or sending them an email to double-check whether you will be allowed in. 

What else do I need to know about? 

You’ll need to bring a FPP2 mask with you to matches to wear in your seat and while heading to the bathroom or bar, and also observe social distancing rules – meaning staying 1.5 metres apart from your fellow fans.

In most states, you’ll also need to provide your contact details, which will be saved by the club and potentially passed on to local health authorities in order to monitor a potential Covid outbreak. 

Will these rules continue throughout the season?

That’s still an open question. If infection rates in Germany continue to rise or high-profile superspreading events occur at future matches, the government could potentially crack down further on sports events in autumn.

This could involve limiting the seat numbers even further, or (more controversially), introducing a ‘vaccinated-only’ rule for entering stadiums. 

READ ALSO: Should Germany bring in Covid restrictions for unvaccinated people only?

A recent outbreak of Covid in the Mainz football team has also dampened celebrations slightly in the run-up to the start of the Bundesliga – leaving club owners urgently calling for both fans and footballers to get vaccinated. 

Speaking to WDR ahead of the season’s start, FC Cologne’s managing director Alexander Wehrle said widespread vaccination was the best route back to normality – a message reiterated by Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann.