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By ESPN Staff

Bundesliga: Stuttgart off to a flying start

BERLIN, Aug 17 (Reuters) - VfB Stuttgart made a convincing start to their Bundesliga campaign on Sunday with a 3-1 away win over newly promoted Borussia Moenchengladbach.

The 2007 champions made light work of last season's runaway second division winners, taking a 3-0 half-time lead through Thomas Hitzlsperger, Ciprian Marica and Mario Gomez.

Canadian international Rob Friend struck back for Gladbach on the hour mark, but it turned out to be no more than a consolation goal as Stuttgart reasserted their grip inn the remaining 30 minutes.

After romping to the second division title last season, Gladbach had looked comfortable enough in the opening stages but fell behind in the 16th minute while temporarily reduced to ten men.

With Gladbach captain Sascha Roesler off the pitch receiving medical treatment, Hitzlsperger ran on to a neat pass from right back Ricardo Osorio before unleashing a fierce left foot shot past keeper Christofer Heimeroth from around 20 metres.

Gladbach returned to full strength but were soon 2-0 down after further good work by Stuttgart combined with the home team's defensive uncertainties.

New midfield signing Jan Simak was the creator this time, dispossessing Jean-Sebastien Jaures near the touchline before laying the ball into the path of Marica.

The 22-year-old Romanian international's shot was helped across the line by the outstretched foot of Gladbach's Marcel Ndjeng following a mix-up between the defender and Heimeroth.

With halftime approaching Gladbach gave the ball away cheaply once more, allowing Stuttgart to break forward with Simak feeding Gomez down the left.

The German international raced on to the ball and skipped into the area before sliding the ball through the legs of the helpless Heimeroth.

Gladbach carved out some good chances of their own but were repeatedly denied by the reflexes of former Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann who put in an impressive display on his return to the Bundesliga.

The 38-year-old was finally beaten in the 60th minute when Gladbach's sole striker Rob Friend benefited from a rare lapse by the visitors.

Played onside by defender Filip Daems, Friend was able to slot the ball in from five metres after pouncing on to a throw-in headed down by team mate Roel Brouwers.

Gladbach coach Jos Luhukay threw on Roberto Calautti as a second striker to help out Friend but the visitors reached the final whistle with their two goal cushion having rarely looked under threat.

Hertha Berlin celebrated an away win by the same goal margin in Sunday's other Bundesliga game, beating Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0.

Brazilian striker Raffael fired Hertha in front two minutes before the break, running to the touchline before skilfully threading the ball between two defenders from a tight angle.

Midfielder Patrick Ebert wrapped up a deserved win for the Berliners after finishing off a well-worked counter in the 60th minute.


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