Werder Bremen 3-2: Hamburg: Wesley-inspired Bremen make Hamburg pay for wasted chances
A thoroughly entertaining battle ended with a win for the home side thanks to a late Hugo Almeida goal.
Bremen lined up with an attack-minded system which was vaguely a 4-2-3-1, with the front four players allowed to drift across the pitch, with the understanding that two of them would cover the wide positions and defend with two banks of four when they lost the ball. Generally this resulted in Marko Marin on the left and Aaron Hunt on the right, although sometimes Hunt ended up in the centre and one of the strikers provided right-wing width.
Hamburg were a more traditional 4-2-3-1, with Eljero Elia in an unfamiliar central role behind Ruud van Nistelrooy. Ze Roberto was also out of position at left-back, although it’s a role he has played many times during his career.
The away side started the brighter – playing quick, direct balls towards the attacking players, as if to exploit the fact that Bremen were sometimes tardy in getting their attackers behind the ball. An interesting part of Hamburg’s play was the way Ze Roberto would come into the centre when attacking (rather than going down the line), creating an extra central midfielder, becoming a playmaker and leaving Marcell Jansen providing width on the left. This very combination produced the game’s first chance – Ze Roberto moved into a central position, passed out wide to Jansen, whose cross was somehow not converted by Ruud van Nistelrooy.
The opening goal arrived when another Hamburg defender tried to come into midfield. Heiko Westermann brought the ball forward but lost possession and was immediately out of position and opened up Hamburg for a mini-break. Wesley’s left-to-right decoy run distracted the three remaining defenders, leaving Marin free – and his deflected shot found the net.
Moments later it was 2-0 – Hunt’s free-kick was played into a zone where – incredibly – Bremen’s two target men were both completely unmarked. Almeida got ahead of his strike partner Claudio Pizarro to head home.
Just before half-time came a crucial substitution. Bremen right-back Clemens Fritz had to depart through injury, and Thomas Schaaf brought on Philip Bargfrede to replace him. This meant Wesley moving back to right-back, and Bremen severely missed his energy in midfield in the second half.
Another important change came after the break, when the ineffective Eljero Elia was removed and Jonathan Pitroipa was introduced, pushing Maxim Choupo-Moting into a leftish forward position. Hamburg upped the tempo and found it easier to close down Bremen in something more like a 4-4-2, whilst Pitroipa went and stood high up against Mikael Silvestre, using his pace and dribbling ability to get the better of the French full-back.
Pitroipa changed the game almost single-handedly – first he squared to van Nistelrooy who scored a typical close range goal, and then Pitroipa thundered a drive into the far corner following a corner. The introduction of he and Gojko Kacar made Hamburg more aggressive and they pressed higher up the pitch, winning the ball back much more quickly. The game became stretched and extremely open, and both sides had chances to win the game.
Hamburg probably had the better of the second half with chances for Choupo-Moting and Van Nistelrooy, as they continually worked the right-hand side to exploit Silvestre’s lack of mobility. Their game became even more direct than in the first half, and suddenly Bremen seemed to be extremely open in midfield (they are used to having one extra player in the midfield zone), with the front four players being bypassed quickly.
The winner came five minutes from time – Wesley broke forward for the first time in the second half, and squared the ball for a Almeida open goal. The game was essentially decided by which side took their chances, but it was no coincidence that it was Wesley’s drive and determination which resulted in Bremen’s third – he was the difference between the sides when in midfield, and he also defended well, with Hambug’s two goals coming from the opposite flank.
The second half turnaround was largely due to two factors – the introduction of Pitroipa, and the fact that Wesley was no longer in the midfield zone. Bremen’s attacking line-up from the start got them into a (slightly fortunate) early lead, but they struggled to get a grip of the game and hold back the tide when Hamburg stepped up their game.
Eventually, it was a matter of which strikers found the net. Ruud van Nistelrooy could have had four or five goals, but Almeida was in better form to score two simple goals.Werder Bremen 3-2: Hamburg: Wesley-inspired Bremen make Hamburg pay for wasted chances