Aaron Hunt says Werder Bremen's early-season success is due to the squad pulling together to reduce the impact of Diego's summer departure, and that togetherness has left them in "a good position" to make progress in the UEFA Europa League.
Werder's 3-1 victory against Athletic Club Bilbao on Thursday not only eased them three points clear at the top of Group L and extended their unbeaten run to eleven matches in all competitions this campaign, but also provided further evidence that there is life after Diego at the Weserstadion. Few predicted a spectacular season for last term's UEFA Cup finalists when their iconic Brazilian playmaker moved to Juventus but Hunt revealed the rest of the squad were determined to prove the pessimists wrong.
"Of course we lost a really good player but I think that the whole team has compensated for the loss," the attacking midfielder, who is a product of the Werder youth academy, told uefa.com. "The success of a team isn't based on just one player. At the moment the team is playing well and I'm really enjoying playing for Werder."
'Enjoyment' and 'Werder' are two words that sit comfortably in the same sentence at the moment with Thomas Schaaf's side currently one of Europe's most attractive teams. A stunning Hunt volley opened the scoring against Athletic, while it was an inspired Marko Marin chip that led to Naldo giving Werder a two-goal lead. Even Peter Niemeyer's second-half sending-off failed to take the shine off Werder's fourth successive win in European competition with a late Torsten Frings penalty taking their tally to an impressive 14 goals in that quartet of matches. "Things are going well for us for now and I hope it keeps going like that," said Hunt. "In the first half we played really well. In the second half, the red card came along quite early and our game went to pieces a little bit. I think that we can be well satisfied, though, with the 3-1 win."
Home-and-away meetings with FK Austria Wien now await Werder, and Hunt is aware three points in the Austrian capital on Matchday 3 will leave his side within touching distance of the next round. "We said that we had to try and win our home games," said the 23-year-old. "We have done that for the first one and the six points put us in a really good position in terms of going through. Vienna is going to be a decisive match for us. If we can win again there, we will have a great chance of going through."
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