Two goals in the first eight minutes helped Panathinaikos FC win their first points in UEFA Champions League Group C and consign ten-man Werder Bremen to their fourth consecutive defeat in the competition and bottom spot.
Ezequiel González gave the home side the lead with a fifth-minute penalty, and Evagelos Mantzios doubled the advantage three minutes later. Bremen dominated the rest of the first half and scored through Miroslav Klose just before the break, but once Ivan Klasnić was sent off, Panathinaikos held out to move level on points with Udinese Calcio in the group.
Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf was missing defender Petri Pasanen through injury but welcomed back striker Klose from suspension. His opposite number Alberto Malesani shuffled his pack despite winning his first game of the season at the weekend, dropping midfielder Igor Bišćan to the bench and bringing in Mantzios to partner Sándor Torghelle in attack.
Malesani's selection looked inspired as both forwards played key roles in the early stages. First, Torghelle was adjudged to have been brought down by Naldo as he broke into the area for a fifth-minute penalty. González took the spot-kick and fired it decisively past the diving Andreas Reinke.
Panathinaikos then had a nervous moment of their own, as Klasnić stroked a shot wide when unmarked from ten metres out. The hosts counterattacked immediately and their dream start got even better when Torghelle burst into the box but was tackled before shooting. The loose ball fell to Mantzios, who clipped his first-time effort beyond Reinke and into the net.
If there was ecstasy among the home fans, there was caution on the home bench. Panathinaikos sat back and as the half wore on, were pushed deeper and deeper into their own territory. Bremen came close to halving the deficit but Mario Galinović made a point-blank stop from Klasnić. The powerful Croatian then hit an attempt just wide of the post, and his presence forced Galinović into flapping at a corner. The ball sailed over him into the path of captain Frank Baumann, whose toe-poke was cleared off the line by Nasief Morris.
Klasnić was next involved in a moment that almost turned the match: with half-time approaching he clashed heads - completely accidentally - with Ioannis Goumas, who had to leave the field with blood pouring from his wound. While he was off the pitch, Torsten Frings threaded a ball behind the defence for Klose, who smashed a rising drive into the net. Goumas was instantly substituted, with Malesani's plan of holding out until half-time dashed.
The Panathinaikos tactics changed in the second period, which began with González jinking past three defenders before firing a left-footed shot against the post. That signalled their intent and Anthony Šerić was increasingly a threat down the left with a series of crosses that Mantzios headed wide. Frings tried his luck with two strikes from distance and the game became stretched as Bremen replaced Baumann with winger Aaron Hunt, and pushed forward in numbers.
Panathinakos came closest to scoring, though, when González reacted quickest to a bouncing ball in the Bremen area with a scissor-kick that thundered against the bar. Schaaf's last act was to bring on Nelson Valdez and the Brazilian had a late attempt blocked at close-range by the excellent Galinović. González was again denied, this time by Reinke's diving stop, before the Bremen challenge ended when Klasnić was dismissed four minutes from time for a second bookable offence.