18.03.2007: Bremen close gap, Bayern lose

German Football
By German Football March 18, 2007 23:33

18.03.2007: Bremen close gap, Bayern lose

Werder Bremen won 2-0 at home to Mainz to move back within three points of Bundesliga leaders Schalke 04 on Sunday.

Werder were frustrated for a long time against in-form Mainz but after a first half of few chances they took the lead when Jurica Vranjes smashed in with an hour gone and Diego made the game safe in added time.

Victory kept Werder in second spot on 50 points, back within striking distance of Schalke after their 1-0 win at home to VfB Stuttgart on Saturday.

Sunday’s win means Werder, who have by far the best goal difference in the Bundesliga, will be ready to pounce next time out when they play Energie Cottbus and Schalke have to travel to face Bayern.

Thomas Schaaf’s side were a long way from their fluent best against Mainz but the coach will be pleased to see how well his side scrapped against awkward opponents.

Mainz had the best chance early in the game, with former Werder striker Mohamed Zidan forcing a good save from Tim Wiese with his fierce shot in the 12th minute.

Werder did not go close until the very end of the first half, when Miroslav Klose got clear down the left and crossed for Vranjes. An opening goal looked certain but the Croatian striker failed to make any kind of contact when faced with an open goal.

Werder maintained that momentum going into the second half. Diego let fly from 30 metres and was not too far away before Vranjes atoned for his earlier miss by giving Werder the lead, taking a smart pass from Clemens Fritz and picking his spot from the edge of the area.

Mainz threw everyone forward for a last gasp corner, including the goalkeeper, and Werder took advantage when Diego was left to take the ball forward 50 metres before shooting into an empty net.

Schalke 04 beat title rivals VfB Stuttgart 1-0 on Saturday to stretch their Bundesliga lead to six points, but Bayern Munich lost ground with a 1-0 defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt.

Schalke, on top throughout, made the breakthrough when Stuttgart keeper Timo Hildebrand failed to clear a corner and allowed Mladen Krstajic to poke in a shot.

It was a first win in five games for Schalke, who are seeking their first German championship in 49 years.

The result gives them 53 points from 26 games, while Stuttgart stay third on 46 points.

Bayern are fourth on 44 points, outside the Champions League places, after a goal from Christoph Preuss 12 minutes from time consigned them to defeat in Frankfurt.

It was a brilliant, first time overhead flick from Preuss, his first Bundesliga goal of the season, and it means Bayern will need to win next weekend’s home game against Schalke to get back in the running for a third successive league title.

‘That was a very bitter defeat,’ said Ottmar Hitzfeld, who this week agreed a new contract with Bayern, keeping him at the club for at least other year. ‘We dominated but we didn’t have the final pass.’

Schalke will go into that game at the Allianz Arena with renewed confidence after seeing off a defensive Stuttgart team.

Schalke were well on top at their Arena AufSchalke in terms of possession but with the Brazilian forward Lincoln missing through suspension they once again struggled to create clear chances.

After a dull opening half-hour they threatened a goal for the first time when Zlatan Bajramovic let fly from 20 metres, forcing a fine save from Hildebrand low at full stretch.

Hildebrand did well again three minutes later, keeping out a Kevin Kuranyi header that followed the best passing move of the match.

The Germany goalkeeper was at clear fault on the goal, though, with around a quarter of an hour to go. Mesu Oezil took the corner, Hildebrand reacted slowly when the ball dropped at his feet and Krstajic took full advantage.

‘It wasn’t our best game of the season,’ said Schalke coach Mirko Slomka. ‘We’ve played better before and lost.

‘We’d do well now to concentrate on the game at Bayern. We can go there with a lot more confidence after this.’

German Football
By German Football March 18, 2007 23:33
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