Werder Bremen finally came to life in this season's UEFA Champions League, beating S.S. Lazio 2-1 to claim their first points and move above their opponents into third place in Group C. Boubacar Sanogo and Hugo Almeida scored the hosts' goals and although Christian Manfredini prompted a tense finish by narrowing the deficit, Bremen held out for a much-needed victory.
Hope of progress
Beaten in their first two matches, Thomas Schaaf's Bremen knew only three points would suffice if they were to retain realistic hope of progress yet they spurned the opportunity of an early breakthrough when Naldo sent a free header over the crossbar from Diego's 12th-minute free-kick. Almeida then nodded wide after Lazio goalkeeper Marco Ballotta made a mess of his throw-out but at this stage the contest retained an even look. Lazio's injury list had prompted first appearances of the campaign for Aleksandar Kolarov at left-back and Mourad Meghni in midfield, and the former provided an anxious moment for Bremen goalkeeper Tim Wiese.
Diego takes charge
With Manfredini lurking close by, Kolarov's inswinging free-kick seemed to catch Wiese unsighted before the ball bounced to safety off the keeper's body. That was as good as it would get for the visitors in the opening period, however, as Diego duly took charge of proceedings. The No10 was at the heart of the Bundesliga team's best work and issued a warning to Lazio with a free-kick that dipped on to the roof of the net, via the faintest deflection off Valon Behrami in the defensive wall.
Urged on by a noisy crowd in the chilly Weserstadion, Diego then burst down the inside-right channel but fired a low cross straight at Ballotta. Moments later he popped up in the Lazio box again only to fire wastefully over from Tim Borowski's pull-back. It was, almost inevitably then, the little Brazilian who engineered the breakthrough for Sanogo. Collecting a pass from Daniel Jensen, Diego advanced towards the Lazio area and chipped the ball into the path of the onrushing Ivorian who carried it beyond Ballotta before sliding it, a touch fortuitously, through the legs of Behrami on the goalline. Bremen's tails were up and Diego underlined his confidence by unleashing an overhead effort over the crossbar. Seconds before half-time he teed up Clemens Fritz but Ballotta got a hand to the full-back's low shot.
Home and dry
If Bremen had been guilty of switching off in the second half of their 3-1 home loss to Olympiacos CFP, they seemed to be home and dry here when Almeida doubled their lead nine minutes after the restart. Fritz crossed low from the right and Almeida appeared at the back post to turn the ball in with a first-time finish. Unbeaten in their first two games, Lazio fought back, however. Shortly after the hour Goran Pandev broke the Bremen offside trap but was foiled by the arm of Wiese. And after Behrami had stopped Borowski tapping into an empty net, Delio Rossi's side got a goal back. Kolarov blasted in a free-kick and Wiese's block carried only as far as Manfredini who drove the rebound low into the net.