Werder Bremen made amends for a dip of form in the Bundesliga by wearing down ten-man Ajax for a convincing victory in Wednesday's UEFA Cup Round of 32 first-leg tie.
After successive domestic defeats left them six points off the pace in the German title race, Bremen made the most of Ajax midfielder Olaf Lindenbergh's first-half dismissal thanks to second-half strikes from Per Mertesacker, Naldo and Torsten Frings.
The Dutch side were always facing an uphill struggle once Lindenbergh had received his second yellow card within the space of three minutes, following a trip on Frings, 24 minutes into this Weserstadion encounter. Bremen immediately spurned the chance of the breakthrough when no one applied the finishing touch to a fine Miroslav Klose cross. Ryan Babel was equally wasteful after Wesley Sneijder's good work had created the opening for Ajax.
It was the visitors who were left to rue their profligacy three minutes after the break when Mertesacker struck after Ajax keeper Maarten Stekelenburg had parried Jurica Vranješ' attempt following a corner. One became two soon after, Naldo's header from a Frings corner being adjudged to have crossed the line. Naldo then nodded wide from an easier opportunity, before Ajax's Hedwiges Maduro forced a save from Tim Wiese. The icing on the cake for Thomas Schaaf's men came on 71 minutes when Frings converted Klose's inviting cross, despite the best efforts of defender Johnny Heitinga. Ajax were relieved to see a Diego strike rebound off a post, leaving the deficit at 3-0 going into next week's return.
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