Werder Bremen booked their ticket to the semi-finals of the DFB-Pokal on Wednesday as Die Grün-Weißen beat Jahn Regensburg 1-0 at the Jahnstadion Regensburg in their quarter-final tie.
A classic cup affair, the contest was tight throughout. The only goal of the game came in the 52nd minute after Yuya Osako was able to volley home from close range, and that moment of magic would prove to be enough for Bremen as they held on to secure the win and their place in the final four.
As a result, Die Grün-Weißen will host RB Leipzig on April 30th, and the winner of that match will take on either Borussia Dortmund or Holstein Kiel in the final.
Story of the match
It wasn’t a really boring first-half, as both teams pushed forward on occasion, but neither of them were able to create any big chances.
Bremen were the better of the two sides, controlling possession while keeping the ball in the opposition half. They had some shouts for a penalty when a shot was technically blocked by the arm of a Regensburg defender, but the referee correctly chose not to point to the spot since the player’s arm was right next to his body in a natural position.
It was a nearly a dream start to the second-half for Die Grün-Weißen as Milot Rashica was played into space on the edge of the area. However, he made a mess of his volley attempt, and the ball eventually rolled wide.
Regensburg went right back up the pitch and came close themselves moments later. Andreas Albers went for a volley of his own, and even though he made much cleaner contact with his strike, the ball still flew over the bar.
The game had completely kicked into gear at this point. Moments after the aforementioned pair of chances, a header from Niklas Moisander pinged off of the post before the rebound was skied by Theodor Gebre Selassie.
Bremen wouldn’t be denied for much longer, though. A wonderful lobbed pass from Marco Friedl picked out the run of Yuya Osako in behind the defense, and the Japanese international did the rest, settling the ball before rifling it into the back of the net.
Osako nearly had a second midway through the half as some superb play from Josh Sargent set him up for a shooting chance from only a few yards out. However, his effort was saved by Alexander Meyer, who came out quickly to close the space.
Regensburg started to really send players forward in search of an equalizer. A corner wasn’t properly cleared by Bremen, and the hosts had a few chances as a result, but they just couldn’t get the ball past the group of bodies in the area.
They would come even closer right before stoppage time. It began when Jiří Pavlenka was forced into making a big save, and even though the ball kept bouncing back to Die Jahnelf, every attempt was blocked by someone before the danger was eventually cleared away.
That would prove to be the last major moment of the contest, as Bremen were ultimately able to hold on and book their place in the semi-finals.
Kohfeldt gets it right
Bremen manager Florian Kohfeldt took a risk with his starting lineup.
Changing from a back three/five that has been used for most of the campaign, Kohfeldt decided to opt for a back four on this occasion. It was a call that made sense, as it allowed the team to have another body going forward, but there was always the chance that the shift could lead to his side not adjusting properly on the day.
The risk paid off, though. Die Grün-Weißen always had someone to turn to in the final third, whether they moved the ball out wide or pushed forward centrally. Yuya Osako, who came into the team to support the typical front two of Josh Sargent and Milot Rashica, was particularly excellent as the game went on, finding space in the final third in order to wreak havoc.
Bremen were also still solid at the back. Captain Niklas Moisander, who hasn’t featured for much of the campaign, stepped up in the place of usual starters Ömer Toprak and Miloš Veljković. Marco Friedl was quality as per usual, while the midfield trio of Maximilian Eggestein, Kevin Möhwald, and Christian Groß always made sure to support the defense whenever need be.
Jiří Pavlenka didn’t have much to do as a result, but he still managed to make the saves he had to in order to secure the clean sheet and the win.
It was a complete team performance, and Kohfeldt deserves plenty of credit for his tactical decision.
Man of the match - Yuya Osako
The difference maker on the day, some would have been surprised to see Yuya Osako in the starting lineup.
He’s not had the best campaign, failing to score at all this season while also only providing one assist. The forward has worked hard whenever given the opportunity, but it’s just not come off for him at any stage.
However, Kohfeldt decided to trust in Osako, and his faith would be repaid. The Japanese international took some time to grow into the contest, but he was eventually able to make an impact. Getting himself into dangerous areas, his movement and positioning helped Bremen create chance after chance in the second-half.
Osako was the one who eventually broke the deadlock after a very composed finish, and it was certainly a goal that he deserved considering his stellar performance. Whether or not he starts again in the future remains to be seen, but for now, the forward is the hero for Die Grün-Weißen.