Stuttgart beat Schalke to give Babbel debut win

BERLIN - VfB Stuttgart beat Schalke 2-0 on Sunday to give Markus Babbel a great start to his new career as a Bundesliga coach. Babbel assumed the Stuttgart job after Armin Veh's sacking last weekend and he was punching the air in delight when Jan Simak ran on to a hopeful long ball and lobbed it over the keeper and into the top right-hand corner for the 80th minute opener. Mario Gomez finished off another swift break a few minutes from time to secure Stuttgart's first win in six league games. Hamburg SV lost further ground in the race for Champions League places when they were lucky to get a 1-1 draw at Bochum, while Borussia Dortmund were held to a goalless draw at home to VfL Wolfsburg. With 15 matches played, and two to go before the long mid-season break, Hoffenheim lead with 34 points after a 3-0 win at home to Arminia Bielefeld on Saturday. Hoffenheim's next match is away to champions Bayern Munich, who climbed to second on 31 points with a 2-0 win away to Bayer Leverkusen. Hertha Berlin are third on 30 following their 2-1 win at home to Cologne on Friday. Hamburg's failure to beat Bochum leaves them fifth on 27 points, while Dortmund are sixth on 25 and Schalke 04 are ninth with 23. GRITTY WIN Stuttgart remain down in 10th place on 21 but they will look forward to the second half of the season with more optimism after gaining reward for a gritty display against Schalke. "It was a very nervy win," win said Babbel, the former Germany defender who retired as a player after a career that took in Bayern Munich, Hamburg, Liverpool and Stuttgart. "We were unsettled in the first half but we improved after the break and took our chances." Schalke should have taken the lead in the first half when Kevin Kuranyi won a penalty but Jefferson Farfan's effort was well saved by Jens Lehmann, low to his left. Stuttgart took control in the second half and Mario Gomez wasted three good chances before Simak's eye-catching strike set them on their way to a deserved win.