Werder Bremen breathed fresh life into their UEFA Champions League bid with a 3-2 victory against Group C leaders Real Madrid CF, a result that denied the visitors the point they needed to wrap up qualification early.
Hopes of progress
Bremen still face the harder task, needing to win at Olympiacos CFP to be sure of progressing while Madrid can draw at home to S.S. Lazio, but they will be ecstatic to be in this position thanks to strikes from Markus Rosenberg, Boubacar Sanogo and Aaron Hunt. Robinho and Ruud van Nistelrooy struck for the visitors in a pulsating encounter.
With so much riding on this game, Bremen will have been distraught to lose midfielder Tim Borowski to a late groin injury. They were not alone in suffering a last-minute withdrawal, though, and Fabio Cannavaro's absence due to a virus looked far more significant when Madrid's central defensive pairing of Pepe and Christoph Metzelder were caught napping after just five minutes. Clemens Fritz spun the ball in from the right and after it bounced off Sanogo's shoulder, Rosenberg bobbled a scrappy effort beyond Iker Casillas.
Having contributed to the opener, Fritz then staggered off with a suspected thigh complaint, to be replaced by Duško Tošić. Whether that blow encouraged the visitors or not, they were level in the 14th minute, after Marcelo wrestled back possession on the halfway line and served Robinho with an excellent ball down the left channel. The tricky Brazilian skipped inside and just as Per Mertsesacker readied to challenge, he curled a sumptuous shot into the far corner of Christian Vander's goal.
Chances dried up after that explosive start, but both sides kept attacking and Bremen centre-back Naldo nearly snuck an effort inside Casillas's near post. Robinho maintained the pressure at the other end, but it was the hosts who went in ahead at the break, and again they carved out their opening down the right. This time, Rosenberg surged past Fernando Gago, evaded Metzelder's rash tackle and set up Sanogo for an expertly-taken volley the Ivorian swept inside the far post.
Thomas Schaaf clearly did not instruct his charges to tighten up after the break and they nearly added a third when Sanogo's header from a Daniel Jensen cross was clawed thrillingly off the line by Casillas. Van Nistelrooy had gone close for the Spanish champions before that and he spurned a gilt-edged chance in the 56th minute, somehow placing Robinho's centre wide when unmarked.
That miss was made to look even worse less than 120 seconds later, as Jensen lofted a pass in behind Madrid's defence and Hunt – back after a long knee injury lay-off – steered the ball past the onrushing Casillas. Jensen's visionary pass suggested Schaaf had picked the right man to replace Diego – but if Bremen believed they could have everything their own way, they were given a timely jolt 19 minutes from time when Van Nistelrooy chipped the ball over Vander. Robinho attempted to add his own finishing touch but was too late, as were Madrid in their attempt to turn the match in their favour.