Werder Bremen held their nerve to book a return to the UEFA Champions League group stage with an exciting 5-3 aggregate triumph though they were pushed all the way at the Maksimir Stadium by a determined NK Dinamo Zagreb outfit.
Coming into the game with a precarious 2-1 lead after the first encounter in Germany, Bremen enjoyed a dream start when Diego converted a 13th-minute penalty. Yet Ognjen Vukojević capitalised on a defensive error to reduce the Croatian side's overall deficit and it set the tone for the evening as the visitors struggled to put the tie beyond reach. Boubacar Sanogo restored their two-goal aggregate advantage, then Luka Modrić hit back from the spot for the home team before Diego scored yet another penalty midway through the half to finally settle the tie.
Diego had proved equally efficient 57 minutes earlier when he neatly slotted in from eleven metres after Hugo Almeida had elicited a foul in the middle of a crowded Dinamo box. It temporarily silenced the majority of the 40,000 crowd, but they regained their voice eight minutes later when Vukojević pounced on a loose pass from Frank Baumann and fired in courtesy of a deflection off the former Germany international. Yet that goal came against the run of play and Bremen quickly regained their composure and then, six minutes before the interval, the lead.
Hugo Almeida worked space for a powerful effort from the left that German goalkeeper Georg Koch could only parry into the path of Sanogo, who made no mistake. It left the home side needing to score three times to win through to the group stage, and although Modrić pulled one back after Boško Balaban had been brought down, Diego restored Bremen's lead on the night with 20 minutes remaining after Etto was fouled to finally extinguish home hopes.