Relegation playoff: Werder Bremen retain Bundesliga status with playoff victory

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Relegation playoff: Werder Bremen retain Bundesliga status with playoff victory

Heidenheim 2-2 Werder Bremen (2-2 aggregate, Bremen win on away goals) Voith-Arena An own goal and a cleansheet in the home leg ultimately saved W

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Heidenheim 2-2 Werder Bremen (2-2 aggregate, Bremen win on away goals) Voith-Arena

An own goal and a cleansheet in the home leg ultimately saved Werder Bremen from relegation to the Bundesliga.

They appeared to be cruising towards Bundesliga safety in the second leg of their relegation playoff against Heidenheim, but as has often been the case this season, Bremen managed to create chaos in a crazy final 10 minutes.

Two goals from Heidenheim’s Tim Kleindienst threatened to send Bremen tumbling into the second division, only for a rare Ludwig Augustinsson strike to prove the vital difference.

A beaming and exhausted Florian Kohfeldt was rightly lost for words at the final whistle. And it summed up Bremen’s season perfectly.

“Shit season, good end,” the head coach exhaled with puffed-out cheeks.

“I’m just happy, happy that we did it. We were dead so often this season… but it doesn’t matter now.”

Kohfeldt has been under intense pressure all season. The club was tipped to challenge for European qualification but has instead been embroiled in a relegation battle ever since the opening-day loss to Fortuna Düsseldorf.

But Bremen have shown loyalty in the past and Kohfeldt has been with the club in some capacity since 2006. The decision to stick by him, even in the case of relegation, could have backfired, but the club now has an off season to revamp the squad and plan for a more successful future.

Following a 0-0 draw in the home leg, Bremen got off to a perfect start when a left-footed rocket hit the back of Heidenheim’s net in just the third minute. As Josh Sargent and Milot Raschica celebrated the opener, Norman Theuerkauf hung his head. The former Bremen youth player had somehow hit an inch-perfect effort into his own net.

From there Bremen sat back and gave Heidenheim the ball, effectively happy to defend a one-goal lead thanks to the away goals rule. The plan looked like it would work, both teams had half chances to add to their own tallies, but it wasn’t until very late that the scoreboard saw any change.

On 85 minutes, Tobias Mohr smashed an effort into Bremen’s crossbar and Kleindienst was free to tuck home the rebound. As Heidenehim pushed for an equalizer, however, Bremen took advantage in injury when Fin Bartels squared to Ludwig Augustinsson to make it 2-1.

A late penalty moments later, converted again by Kleindienst, set up a nervy finish, but Bremen held on.



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