Bruno Labbadia seemed to calmly enjoy the sight of his celebrating team from afar. The VfB Stuttgart coach had acted out his emotions moments earlier when he jumped into midfielder Atakan Karazor, beaming with joy.

The relief was huge, on the sixth attempt the experienced coach was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. The 3-0 (1-0) win against 1. FC Köln on Saturday was Labbadia’s first win in the Bundesliga since his return to the Swabians – and possibly the turnaround in the relegation battle.

Direct free kick initiates victory

“That was extremely important,” said Labbadia. “It’s been a long time since you kept a clean sheet at home and you haven’t won away from home for a long time. Those are all things that stick in our minds. Not only for us, but also for the spectators.”

VfB is still in danger of relegation. After the long-awaited liberation, the Swabians go to FC Schalke 04, bottom of the table, with new confidence next weekend. “We showed what we can do as a team,” said goal scorer Borna Sosa. “We can go to Schalke full of conviction and we want to get three points there. We’re on the way up.”

In the 2-1 draw at SC Freiburg last weekend, Sosa failed to hit the crossbar with a free kick and missed the equalizer in added time. This time the Croatian international converted a dead ball directly (59th). The crossbar played along this time and Gil Dias’ opening goal also saw the ball bounce off the post (10′). VfB seems to have forced luck – at least in the duel with Cologne. “We finally got our reward and now we have to keep going,” said Labbadia.

Goalkeeper change strengthens the defensive

In contrast to the past few weeks, the defensive did not afford any individual dropouts. Goalkeeper Fabian Bredlow also exuded security between the posts. Labbadia can feel confirmed in his decision to have promoted the 27-year-old to the new number one. “He was stable and played well,” said the coach.

The previous goalkeeper Florian Müller was only fit on the bench. “We have a very good relationship and we talked about it, but that’s just the way it should be,” said Bredlow about the new situation between him and his opponent. “He gave me outstanding support and I can only take my hat off because I was in the other situation the whole time and I know how it feels.”

The VfB pros haven’t had the chance to experience what a home win without conceding a goal feels like for a long time. The last time it was zero was April 4, 2021. “That shows the situation we’re in,” said Labbadia. “But I think that the defense was very good in all games. Only the individual mistakes, you can’t thwart them.”

With liberation to the basement duel

It was all the more important that VfB controlled the game against Cologne over long stretches. Under Labbadia, who started his second term with the Swabians in December, the mileage of the pros has improved significantly and the rate of duels against Cologne was also good.

In addition, the coach could rely on a joker. Tanguy Coulibaly, who was recently criticized, scored the final score less than a minute after being substituted on (74th). “Something has happened. The reservists have caught up and it’s important that the boys see: If the training performance is good over a longer period of time, then I get my chance,” said Labbadia.

VfB are now heading to Gelsenkirchen with fresh impetus. “We will enjoy the win. But on Monday we will continue to be focused and concentrated. But it was only a first step, because there is still a long way to go,” said sporting director Fabian Wohlgemuth. He, too, only observed the celebrations of the team from a distance.