Stuttgart held by battling Union Berlin in playoff first leg

Stuttgart's Argentine defender Emiliano Insua falls over Union Berlin's Swedish forward Sebastian Andersson during the German Bundesliga Relegation first-leg football match in Stuttgart, southern Germany, on Thursday. — AFP

BERLIN — Bundesliga side VfB Stuttgart were held to a 2-2 draw by second division Union Berlin who twice came from a goal down in the first leg of their relegation/promotion playoff on Thursday.

Stuttgart, who finished third from bottom in the top flight, will travel to Berlin for the return on Monday.

The hosts scored three minutes before the break through Christian Gentner after Tasos Donis' 70-metre sprint set him up.

Their joy lasted only seconds though as Berlin leveled in the 43rd when a fine first touch and shot by Suleiman Abdullahi caught the Stuttgart defense napping.

Substitute Mario Gomez put the hosts back in front after another fine run, carrying the ball 50 meters before netting helped by a deflection in the 51st.

But again Berlin battled back, equalizing through Marvin Friedrich's powerful header from a corner in the 68th.

Cologne and Paderborn won automatic promotion to the top division, while bottom side Nuremberg and Hanover 96 were relegated from the Bundesliga.

Serie B in more chaos after order

to stage relegation playoff

Italy's Serie B, already cut to an unwieldy 19 teams and with Palermo ordered to the bottom of the table over financial problems, faced more problems on Thursday after its decision to abandon this season's relegation playoff was overturned.

Palermo, relegated from Serie A last year, finished third despite changing hands three times this season, only to be sent to the bottom this month because of financial and administrative irregularities.

As a result, Foggia moved up from 17th, a direct relegation place, to 16th, which under the original rules would have put them into a two-leg playoff with the team in 15th, Salernitana. But the league then ruled that the playoff would not take place and Foggia would still go straight down.

Foggia, themselves deducted six points over administrative problems, appealed to a regional court (TAR) and won their case on Thursday, forcing the league to set a meeting for June 11 to take the next step — leaving Salernitana in limbo.

The Serie B season began in chaos when Bari and Cesena were declared bankrupt and Avellino refused a license.

The league decided to press on with 19 teams but this was challenged by six Serie C teams who wanted a chance to fill the three vacant spots.

The matter was finally settled by an Italian Olympic Committee arbitration panel which agreed on 19 teams — one month after the league had started. — Reuters