Anorthosis Famagusta FC 2-2 Werder Bremen
The Cypriot champions lost a two-goal lead and second place in Group B as Bremen scored twice in the last 18 minutes to rescue a point in Nicosia.
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Anorthosis Famagusta FC's hopes of consolidating second spot in Group B evaporated in the face of a late Werder Bremen fightback as the hosts let slip a two-goal lead in Nicosia.
Quick-fire strikes midway through the second half from Nikos Nikolaou and Sávio seemed to have taken Anorthosis another step towards the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds in their debut campaign. Yet their chances of a second home victory were undone by a Bremen revival that produced goals for Diego and Hugo Almeida. The draw, combined with Panathinaikos FC's win at now-qualified FC Internazionale Milano, left Anorthosis third in the group. Bremen can only aspire to overtake them on Matchday 6 and reach the UEFA Cup.
Thomas Schaaf's men largely controlled the first half as Diego, Mesut Özil and Torsten Frings worked hard to find a way through the Anorthosis back line. For all their possession, however, it was the hosts who almost struck first as Ioannis Skopelitis made space in the Bremen area but delayed his shot which was blocked by Naldo. The first goalkeeper to be tested, though, was Anorthosis' Zóltan Nagy – deputising for Arian Beqaj – who parried a Frings effort away for a corner.
Bremen nearly broke the deadlock when Almeida's powerful strike was tipped on to the crossbar by Nagy. The Bundesliga club's dominance continued until the interval: Almeida flicked Diego's free-kick just past the post, while Frings caused left-back Jeffrey Leiwakabessy no end of trouble down the visitors' right flank. As Bremen grew in confidence, so Temuri Ketsbaia's side shrank in stature. The Cypriot champions began the night two places and the same number of points better off than their rock-bottom opponents, yet struggling to establish a supply line for lone forward Hawar Taher, they greeted the half-time whistle with relief.
The Anorthosis box endured a similar bombardment at the start of the second period. Claudio Pizarro narrowly failed to touch in a Frings cross; Almeida wasted a free header. Such profligacy was punished soon after the hour when Sávio whipped over a corner which substitute Nikolaou met at the far post and fired, via a slight deflection, beyond Christian Vander. Minutes later, Anorthosis were close to adding Bremen's name to a list of scalps including SK Rapid Wien and Olympiacos CFP from qualifying, and Panathinaikos in Group B.
Taher broke down the inside-right channel and delivered a low centre across goal which Nikolaos Frousos directed against Vander; the ball squirmed to the goalkeeper's right, where Sávio was on hand to turn it into the empty net from close range. If the second goal sent the GSP Stadium into raptures, the celebrations were short-lived. Nikolaou was penalised for a trip on Aaron Hunt in the area, enabling Diego to keep his nerve and rifle the spot-kick high beyond Nagy's right hand.
Bremen grabbed their lifeline emphatically, throwing everything they had at Nagy's goal. Frustration was the initial result, as Traianos Dellas and company resisted the siege, yet with three minutes remaining Almeida placed a shot unerringly beyond Nagy after Özil's cross had been helped on by Duško Tošić. Even that was not the end of the drama. Nagy kept out Almeida at one end; Taher raced clear at the other only to be outwitted by Vander.