SV Werder Bremen clawed back a two-goal deficit to earn a share of the spoils in an exhilarating 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur FC in Tuesday's Group A curtain-raiser.
In a match that snugly fitted the cliche of a game of two halves, Tottenham initially made their first outing at this level look routine as a Petri Pasanen own goal on 13 minutes and a Peter Crouch header five minutes later gave them a healthy advantage. Bremen, though, regrouped and goals from Hugo Almeida and Marko Marin in an irresistible four-minute spell either side of half-time earned the hosts a point ahead of their Matchday 2 trip to holders FC Internazionale Milano. Tottenham will next host FC Twente.
It may have been the visitors making their group stage debuts, but it was Bremen who appeared riddled with stage fright on their return to the competition after a one-season absence. Bremen had barely mustered a meaningful attack when Pasanen turned Gareth Bale's enticing cross into his own net under pressure from Crouch, and there was an air of inevitability when Bale flighted another inviting centre towards the England forward. It is doubtful that Bremen's own towering presence, the injured Per Mertesacker, could have done anything to foil Crouch as he rose majestically before heading back across Tim Wiese and into the far corner.
Bremen have often proved hit-and-miss, and they were enduring one of the latter evenings with only a brilliant Wiese parry from a Bale drive between them and a three-goal deficit. With his team rocking, Thomas Schaaf introduced Aaron Hunt and Bremen's vaunted front line suddenly clicked into gear – Almeida nodding Wesley's cross beyond Carlo Cudicini to revive hopes before forcing the Italian goalkeeper to parry his snap shot.
Bremen were galvanized, though, and suddenly the confidence that had been so conspicuously lacking was coursing through the side. Seconds after the restart Hunt's stinging effort grazed Cudicini's hands before Marin showed why Bremen are confident the departure of Mesut Özil will not be too keenly felt – the diminutive German international's deft twist away from a phalanx of defenders merely the prelude to a low attempt that zipped between Cudicini and a post.
Almeida then bustled through and fired narrowly over, and Hunt cleverly crafted space for a shot that flew just too high, but Bremen often give opponents chances – Tottenham, though, failed to take theirs. Crouch and Robbie Keane both lunged in vain to connect with Bale's driven cross, and the former clipped a shot over Wiese but agonisingly wide of the target from Wilson Palacios's beautifully disguised pass.