Friedrich equaliser puts Stuttgart on brink of relegation from Bundesliga

Berlin (AFP) –


Union Berlin defender Marvin Friedrich went from zero to hero and kept his side dreaming of promotion to Germany's top flight as they fought to a 2-2 draw at Stuttgart in the first leg of the Bundesliga relegation play-off.

Friedrich headed home the away side's second equaliser 22 minutes from the end, not long after comically deflecting Mario Gomez's weak shot past his own goalkeeper, to give the Berliners the edge with two away goals going into the second leg.

The draw means three-time German champions Stuttgart must beat second-tier side Union in the capital on Monday to avoid relegation, after finishing third from bottom in the top division.

Anastasios Donis ran almost the full length of the pitch to set up Christian Gentner for Stuttgart's opener just before half-time, but Union hit back through Suleiman Abdullahi directly from the restart.

Abdullahi, who missed a late chance to secure automatic promotion in Bochum at the weekend, picked up a long ball flicked on by Sebastian Andersson and smashed the ball in from just inside the area.

Stuttgart coach Nico Willig brought on Gomez at half-time, and the veteran striker restored the home side's lead five minutes later when he scuffed his shot in off the head of the unfortunate Friedrich.

Friedrich's redemption came 15 minutes later as he headed the visitors level again, giving them the advantage ahead of the decisive return leg at the Alte Foersterei stadium.