Hamburger SV took a significant step towards their first appearance in a European final since winning the European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1983 with a 1-0 win over Werder Bremen in the first leg of their UEFA Cup semi-final at the Weserstadion.
The diminutive Piotr Trochowski headed in the precious away goal midway through the first half to spoil Werder Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf's 48th birthday and leave Hamburg in a commanding position ahead of the second leg next Thursday. Bremen, looking to win a UEFA Cup semi-final for the first time in four attempts, might even have lost by more were it not for the excellent Tim Wiese who twice saved from Ivica Olić with the striker through on goal.
It was the second of four meetings between these rivals in 19 days and they tore at each other from the outset. In only the second minute Alex Silva's neat touch on the edge of the area sent Olić clear only for Wiese, Hamburg's nemesis in Bremen's German Cup victory last week, to brilliantly block the Croatian striker's low shot. Bremen responded immediately and Frank Rost was at full stretch to keep out Diego's long-range strike at the other end.
The game soon settled, with David Jarolím and Silva effectively stifling the threat of Diego and Mesut Özil in midfield, though Bremen were enjoying more of the possession. When Hamburg did press on 22 minutes Bremen had Wiese to thank again for keeping them on level terms as he tipped José Guerrero's low strike round the post.
If that was a warning it went unheeded. Five minutes later Guy Demel crossed from the right to the far post where Trochowski, the smallest player on the pitch, was given the time and space to send a header back across goal and beyond Wiese's despairing dive. Bremen's response was fitful, with Diego's promptings narrowly failing to come off until he picked out Claudio Pizarro shortly before the break, but the striker headed wide.
They came closer still seven minutes into the second half when Rost's attempted clearance from a cross fell kindly for Hugo Almeida whose header back towards goal was held by the relieved Hamburg goalkeeper. It was a rare moment of hope for the Bremen fans who grew increasingly frustrated as their side struggled to convert possession into chances. When Diego's long ball did tee up Almeida in the 60th minute the Portuguese international headed wide.
Rosenberg shoots over
Bremen were almost made to pay moments later when Olić broke clear down the left but Wiese was quickly off his line to block the shot. The home goalkeeper was beaten moments later, though, as Jonathan Pitroipa deflected Olić's low cross fractionally wide. At the other end substitute Markus Rosenberg shot over on 70 minutes as Bremen stepped up the pressure in the closing stages, but though camped in the Hamburg half as the clock ticked down, they could not find a way through.
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