Werder Bremen have pulled off the great escape, beating FC Heidenheim in the Bundesliga relegation playoff on away goals after a 2-2 draw at the Voith-Arena.
The 2nd leg was a thrilling one throughout. It started with an early own goal from the home side, as defender Norman Theuerkauf slammed the ball into the top corner past his own keeper. That moment of madness proved to be crucial, as it gave the Green-Whites a massive away goal.
Things got even more dramatic with five minutes to go, as Tim Kleindienst poked home from close range to pull one back for Heidenheim. They pushed forward in search of a late winner, but it would be Bremen who put the tie to bed as Ludwig Augustinsson finished off a lethal counter attacking move.
Kleindienst did score another from the penalty spot at the very end, but the Green-Whites were able to hold on to stay in the Bundesliga for yet another season.
Story of the match
Bremen made a dream start to the contest, grabbing a crucial away goal after only three minutes.
Driving forward, the away side tried to make some quick passes on the edge of the area. The ball pinged around a couple of bodies until Heidenheim defender Norman Theuerkauf accidentally cleared the ball into the back of his own net, much to the shock of everyone watching. It was an incredibly lucky break for the Green-Whites, as the home side now needed two goals to win the tie.
It was almost 2-0 in the 8th minute, as Milot Rashica found space before unleashing a rocket of a shot towards goal. The only issue was his effort flew too centrally, and goalkeeper Kevin Muller was able to make the superb save.
Bremen had another chance moments later. A loose ball was bouncing around in the air in the penalty area before it eventually made its way to Davy Klaassen. The Dutchman had an open header, but it was from a tight angle, so Muller was able to deny him from close range.
Things eventually calmed down, as Heidenheim started controlling possession and the Green-Whites chose to sit back and absorb pressure. The rest of the first half passed by with little incident, setting the stage for a gripping second half.
It took the home side less than a minute to create a decent goalscoring opportunity, as substitute Stefan Schimmer’s shot from distance tested Jiri Pavlenka, who pushed the ball out wide. The forward then got on the end of the following corner after some poor defending, but Schimmer skied his effort.
Heidenheim should have equalized soon after, as David Otto was left unmarked only a few yards out from goal, but his header flew wide of the target.
Bremen responded well, creating chances of their own. Milos Veljkovic and Ludwig Augustinsson both had attempts cleared by an opposing defender, and Josh Sarget was denied by a phenomenal save from Muller after dancing past the backline.
The equalizer did eventually come through more strange circumstances. A long distance shot from Tobias Mohr slammed off the bar, but the ball bounced right to Tim Kleindienst, who somehow used his knees to finish off the rebound, even if he didn’t know anything about it.
The pressure was on at that point, as Heidenheim sent everyone forward. However, it would be Bremen who grabbed the next goal, as Fin Bartels took the ball off a defender before squaring it to Augustinsson, whose shot just squeezed in off the underside of the bar even though it was an empty net.
Heidenheim did score one more before the tie was over, as Kleindienst converted a penalty in the final few minutes. However, that would prove to be the final meaningful kick of the game, as the final whistle then blew to confirm Bremen’s remarkable survival.
Bremen get the job done
Somehow, someway, Werder Bremen have once again avoided relegation.
Coming into the Bundesliga restart, few expected the Green-Whites to stay up by the end of the campaign. Against all the odds, Bremen just kept surviving. They only snuck into the relegation playoff on the final day of the season, smashing Koln 6-1 while having Fortuna Dusseldorf lose, which sent them down instead.
Then came this two legged tie. The 1st leg was a dreadful 0-0 draw, which set the stage for this epic encounter. Bremen were finally able to finish off the job, riding their luck to a 2-2 draw that barely kept them up on away goals.
Now, they face an incredibly important offseason. If the Green-Whites want to do better next campaign, then they’ll have to make the right signings in the summer. Supporters can celebrate for now, but there’s a lot of work to be done if Bremen want to have a more comfortable season next time around.
Man of the match - Maximilian Eggestein
Quietly brilliant on the afternoon, midfielder Maximilian Eggestein put in a shift on both sides of the ball.
The German dropped back when need be, clogging up space near the edge of his own penalty area and making it tough for Heidenheim to create many chances up the middle. Eggestein then helped the Green-Whites drive forward when they got the ball, dribbling past defenders and picking out teammates in space.
He doesn’t get many goals or assists, but performances like this show just why Eggestein is such a crucial player for Bremen.