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Werder Bremen reached the UEFA Cup semi-finals in style after a Miroslav Klose double and further goals by Tim Borowski and Diego gave the Bundesliga side an emphatic 4-1 home win against AZ Alkmaar.
Visitors AZ had been hoping to celebrate their 50th match in continental competition by reaching the last four and when Moussa Dembélé levelled the tie on aggregate by cancelling out Borowski's opener, qualification seemed a distinct possibility. However, Bremen ultimately proved too strong for Louis van Gaal's team who must wait for next season before adding the next chapter in their European adventures.
Although home coach Thomas Schaaf was compelled to deploy a new-look rearguard as a result of injuries to Per Mertesacker, Christian Schulz and Pierre Wome, Bremen began with great self-assurance. It only took 50 seconds for right-back Clemens Fritz to try his luck with a long-range effort that flew just wide. Ten minutes later it was Klose's turn to be denied, this time by AZ goalkeeper Boy Waterman who made a superb save.
The hosts continued to pile on the pressure and, on 16 minutes, Borowski broke the deadlock on his first appearance since tearing knee ligaments two months ago. Diego delivered a delightful pass from deep and the unmarked Germany midfielder gave Waterman no chance by firing across goal from nine metres. Naldo then had the opportunity to double the lead after 24 minutes, only for his free-kick to fizz narrowly wide.
However, it was AZ who were next to score, hitting back with a fantastic equaliser by Dembélé. The Belgian international received a pass from Maarten Martens on the left flank and beat Tim Wiese with a remarkable left-footed strike from the edge of the area. The Dutch outfit now held the upper hand on the strength of their all-important away goal but within four minutes Bremen were back in front. Aaron Hunt raced clear before selflessly teeing up Klose to gratefully poke in and break a 907-minute goal drought.
Klose could have registered again before the interval, but blazed Borowski's cross over, while at the other end Wiese did well to block Demy de Zeeuw's set-piece. However, Schaaf's men continued to dominate in the second period, Naldo again threatening with a free-kick from distance that squirmed wide off the startled Waterman. And if Martens was starting to menace a little for AZ with his probing runs down the left, neither Shota Arveladze nor Danny Koevermans could beat Naldo to his deliveries.
Instead Klose showed the way with a trademark effort, steering a powerful header past Waterman from Diego's inviting 62nd-minute centre. The Brazilian playmaker was at his creative best and deservedly added a fourth himself after a quick one-two with Klose eight minutes from time. Spinning away from his markers he applied a cool finish to secure Bremen's place in the last four and a tie with RCD Espanyol.
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