Stuttgart coach Pellegrino Matarazzo described his feelings of “ecstasy” after his side’s Bundesliga survival was secured with a last-gasp 2-1 final-day win over Cologne.
VfB were destined for a relegation play-off entering injury time on Saturday with the scoreline locked at 1-1, despite rivals Hertha Berlin trailing at Borussia Dortmund.
Stuttgart needed only one goal to be sure of Bundesliga safety and, with goalkeeper Florian Muller – whose error had put them in such peril – up for a corner, it belatedly arrived.
Wataru Endo headed the 92nd-minute winner that sparked scenes of mass celebration and condemned Hertha to the play-off – not that Matarazzo knew the identity of his hero amid the carnage.
The coach raced onto the pitch along with his substitutes – and Stuttgart mascot Fritzle, a giant, fluffy crocodile.
“I don’t even remember who scored the goal,” Matarazzo told Sky Sport. “I don’t remember what happened.
“Suddenly, I only see that Fritzle is lying on me. It was a nice moment for all players, for all the fans and everyone part of the club.”
Stuttgart were grateful to Dortmund for their role in the escape, with Hertha having led until past the hour mark at the Westfalenstadion, when the departing Erling Haaland equalised.
“The boys certainly noticed the result,” Matarazzo said. “With every goal Dortmund scored, the players had more courage.
“It was an absolute goal of will at the end. I’m very happy for the boys.”
He added: “I’ve got a headache after all that shouting and cheering. That was ecstasy, a great moment, outstanding. I’m so happy for the lads. You never forget a moment like today.”