Werder Bremen nearly blew a three-goal first-leg lead but advanced to the UEFA Cup Round of 16 despite a 3-1 loss at AFC Ajax.
Powers of recovery
After Leonardo's fourth-minute strike was cancelled out by Hugo Almeida, Klaas Jan Huntelaar pulled another goal back for Ajax on the hour and Ryan Babel made it 3-1 to guarantee a nervous last 16 minutes for the German side in Amsterdam.
Knowing they needed to make up at least three goals, Henk ten Cate's Ajax pushed forward from the start. Bremen goalkeeper Tim Wiese made a good job of fisting away Wesley Sneijder's attempt in the second minute but was soon beaten as Per Mertesacker's clearance fell to Leonardo who swept the ball in.
Back in front
Hugo Almeida levelled ten minutes later when he pounced to bundle in Tim Borowski's pinpoint centre, although Bremen were back in trouble soon after as Petri Pasanen failed to deal with the danger and Pierre Wome kicked Leonardo's header off the line. Instead, Ajax's second goal had to wait until the first chance of the second half, Babel beating Pasanen to a cross and Huntelaar stretching to touch the ball past Wiese.
Leonardo next went close with a bicycle-kick and Babel missed a one-on-one with Wiese, while at the other end Maarten Stekelenburg did well to fend off Miroslav Klose's attempt. Hugo Almeida squandered a further opening for Bremen before Babel made Thomas Schaaf's men pay on 74 minutes, outwitting Mertersacker and firing past Wiese. That was the cue for Ajax to throw everything forward in search of another goal, yet the Dutch team fell just short.