Germany squad members Cacau and Sami Khedira hit second-half goals to seal VfB Stuttgart’s 3-1 win over Hoffenheim on Saturday to pull them out of the bottom three.
Brazil-born Cacau gave his side the lead just seven minutes after coming off the bench, before Khedira put the result beyond doubt with time running out.
This was Stuttgart’s first win under coach Christian Gross who took over from Markus Babbel on Dec. 6 and this was their first success in 10 league games since their last victory against Eintracht Frankfurt on Sept. 26.
It was also a timely confidence boost for a team due to tackle mighty Barcelona in the Champions League knockout round in February.
“It is our first win for nearly three months and that is a long time to go without a victory,” said Khedira who made his Germany debut in the 2-0 win over South Africa in September. “The coach has given us some belief and you could see it out there tonight.”
Hoffenheim were missing swine flu victims Germany goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand, defender Marvin Compper, midfielder Tobias Weis and forward Demba Ba.
In bitterly cold weather at Stuttgart’s wintry Mercedes Benz Arena, the hosts were without ex-Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, who earned himself a three match ban for being sent off against Mainz last weekend.
Stuttgart took the lead when Romania striker Ciprian Marica netted a 32nd-minute penalty.
Cacau added the second aftter 67 minutes and Khedira wrapped up the scoring eight minutes from time.
Earlier, teenager Toni Kroos scored twice to fire Bayer Leverkusen back to the top of the Bundesliga as the home side came from behind to inflict a 3-2 defeat on Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Bayern Munich stay third and were ruthless against bottom-side Hertha Berlin in a 5-2 rout at Munich’s Allianz Arena.
Berlin are still relegation candidates as they finish the first half of the season with just six points.
Borussia Dortmund went fourth after they celebrated their 100th anniversary as a club with a 1-0 win at home over Freiburg.
Defending champions VfL Wolfsburg were held to a 2-2 draw by Eintracht Frankfurt to finish eighth in the table, while VfL Bochum beat Hannover 96 3-2.