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Stuttgart tops Hamburg to fuel European hopes

A STOPPAGE-TIME goal by striker Mario Gomez gave hosts VfB Stuttgart a 1-0 win against Hamburg SV on Sunday and boosted its hopes for a European spot.

The defeat left Hamburg in third place, level on 51 points with second-placed Bayern Munich, which beat Eintracht Frankfurt 4-0 on Saturday. Stuttgart moved to within a point of fourth-placed Hertha Berlin which is on 49 points.

The top two teams qualify for the Champions League, the third plays Champions League qualifiers while the fourth and fifth-placed teams qualify for what will next year be known as the Europa League.

VfL Wolfsburg top the standings with 54 points after defeating lowly Borussia Moenchengladbach 2-1 on Saturday.

Stuttgart was the more aggressive side and deserved the win, while Hamburg looked tired after its midweek 3-1 win against Manchester City in the UEFA Cup.

Create chances

"I had already settled for a 0-0," Stuttgart coach Markus Babbel told reporters. "But the boys wanted the win. We continuously tried to create chances and at the end we were rewarded."

The hosts twice demanded a penalty for what they said were a handball and a foul on Timo Gebhart and television replays showed Hamburg was lucky to get away with both.

While Stuttgart repeatedly threatened through Thomas Hitzlsperger, Ciprian Marica and Gomez, Hamburg largely depended on quick counter attacks targeting striker Ivica Olic.

In the day's only other match, Bayer Leverkusen lost ground in its bid to claim a European spot when it drew 1-1 with Werder Bremen.

It is in ninth place on 42 points.

In Italy, Antonio Floro Flores scored two late goals on Sunday for Udinese to beat nine-man Reggina 2-0 in the Serie A and bounce back from its midweek UEFA Cup loss.

Floro Flores reached Giovanni Pasquale's cross to score in the 85th minute, and he made it 2-0 in injury time by shooting low inside the near post. The loss leaves Reggina stranded at the bottom of the standings with 20 points, seven from safety with seven rounds remaining.


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