Hertha edges away from drop zone, beats Stuttgart 2-0

BERLIN (AP) — Hertha Berlin took another step away from the Bundesliga’s drop zone on Sunday with a 2-0 win over Stuttgart, the team’s second straight victory over a relegation rival.

Davie Selke gave Hertha a dream start by scoring in the fourth minute with a volley from Marvin Plattenhardt’s fine cross, but the supporters had to wait until injury time for Ishak Belfodil to seal the result.

Hertha, which defeated Augsburg 1-0 last weekend, moved four points clear of Stuttgart and the relegation zone with three games remaining.

Selke’s early celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag, which the player disputed by wagging his finger. A VAR check found in the player’s favor, and the celebrations resumed again.

Hertha played with a bite and commitment that has been rare this season, earning loud applause from the fans that turned up in numbers not seen since pre-pandemic days. All but one section of the 75,000-capacity Olympiastadion appeared to be full.

Club spokesman Max Jung said members were rewarded for their support during the difficult period with two free tickets for the game. The recent end of coronavirus restrictions also influenced the fans’ return. There were long traffic tailbacks on the way to the stadium before the game.

Stuttgart challenged more in the second half but couldn’t force an equalizer, and Belfodil stayed cool to elude Stuttgart defender Hiroki Ito and goalkeeper Florian Müller to put the win beyond doubt in the third minute of second-half injury time.

Relegation-rival Augsburg had put the pressure on both teams with a 2-0 win at Bochum earlier Sunday.

Last-place Greuther Fürth was relegated Saturday, leaving the others to fight it out to avoid the other direct relegation place. A playoff against the third-place finisher in the second division gives whichever team finishes third from bottom in the top tier a second chance to avoid the drop.

Arminia Bielefeld is second last on 26 points, two points below Stuttgart in the relegation playoff place.

Augsburg is three points ahead of Hertha, which visits Bielefeld next.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

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