Werkself still in the race for Champions League

Bayer 04 had to settle for a 0-0 draw at Werder Bremen but are still in the race for a Champions League finish as Hoffenheim lost 2-0 away to Stuttgart. TSG in fourth and Bayer 04 in fifth place are on the same points. Hoffenheim have the better goal difference. The Werkself dominated proceedings at the Weser Stadium but were unable to convert any of three good chances.

"Over the past few weeks we've found it difficult to find the back of the net. The performance was okay but we were not clinical enough," said Julian Brandt after the game.” Julian Baumgartlinger added: "We didn't give much away, played well from the back but we weren't sharp enough in the final third in front of the Bremen goal."

Heiko Herrlich had to manage in Bremen without Jonathan Tah (hip), Sven Bender (muscular problems) and Joel Pohjanpalo (rehab after ankle injuryn). Lars Bender was also ruled with a muscle injury. The captain was replaced in holding midfield by Dominik Kohr. Changes from the game against VfB Stuttgart saw Wendell and Brandt returning to the starting line-up in place of Karim Bellarabi and Lucas Alario. Tin Jedvaj, Julian Baumgartlinger and Panos Retsos formed a back three.

The Werkself  played in a special white kit, celebrating the UEFA Cup win in 1988, with the 2,500 travelling Bayer 04 fans clad almost entirely in red as part of the traditional Finally Red campaign. That provided an impressive sight in the away stand.

The two teams cancelled each other out in the opening stages of the game as both Werder and Bayer 04 were focused on the defensive duties with few chances created early on. Leon Bailey had the first opportunity on goal for the Werkself.  The shot from the Jamaican from 18 yards out on 15 minutes went just over the bar.

Heiko Herrlich's team were now making the running as they found their rhythm - but passes into the danger area  lacked the necessary precision. The hosts hardly posed a threat up front. And the next real chance fell to the Werkself on the half-hour mark. A great pass from Wendell saw Brandt try a bicycle kick from eight yards out but the Werder goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka was able to make the save. The only other real action before the half-time whistle was a long-range shot from Charles Aránguiz (39') and a poor sliding tackle from Sebastian Langkamp on Kai Havertz that rightly earned him a yellow card on 40 minutes. The Werkself had more of the game but were unable to penetrate the Bremen defence.

GREAT chance for Havertz 

The Werkself started the second half with the same line-up and they were quick to press Bremen - with a great chance to take the lead. A whipped-in cross from Bailey was parried by Pavlenka towards Kevin Volland and Havertz had a shot from close range but his effort on 50 minutes went well over the bar. He could have done better. At the other end, the Werkself defence continued to play very well as they succeeded in closing down space to snuff out any attacking threat from the Green and Whites

Bayer 04 continued to have the upper hand with 75 per cent possession but were unable to find the gaps and the final pass did not always find its target. The game was now subject to constant interruptions with Bremen primarily guilty thanks to a rather physical approach. Bayer 04 upped the pressure in the closing stages with Heiko Herrlich bringing on Alario in place of Kohr as an additional option in attack. However, the Werkself still found it difficult to find space in front of the Bremen defence with a number of lay-offs lacking the required accuracy. Bellarabi then came on for Bailey due to an injury. And the Werkself number 38  provided a threat on 89 minutes with a cross from the right but Pavlenka was able to cut out the cross. That was swiftly followed by the final whistle.
Bayer 04 have missed out on moving up to fourth place but a return to the European stage is an almost certainty given a three-point lead and a superior goal difference of 16 more than VfB Stuttgart in eighth place. VfB provided Bayer 04 with a helping hand with a 2-0 victory at home to Hoffenheim.

showdown for champions league place 

In the final game of the season, the Werkself entertain Hannover 96 at the BayArena next Saturday (12 May). The match (kick-off 15.30 CET) is like a final to determine progress to next season's Champions League with Hoffenheim  at home to Borussia Dortmund at the same time. Hoffenheim and Bayer 04 both have 52 points but TSG have a superior goal difference of three more than the Werkself. The Black and Reds will be without striker Kevin Volland who was shown a fifth yellow card at Bremen.

Match stats:

Werder Bremen: Pavlenka - Gebre Selassie, Veljkovic, Langkamp, Friedl - Bargfrede (Rashica 78') - Eggestein, Delaney - Kainz (Gondorf 46'), Junuzovic (Eggestein 90+1 ') - M. Kruse

Bayer 04: Leno – Retsos, Jedvaj, Baumgartlinger, Wendell (Henrichs 71') – Kohr (Alario 72'), Aránguiz - Bailey (Bellarabi 81'), Havertz, Brandt – Volland

Goals: -

Referee: Robert Hartmann (Wangen)

Booked: Langkamp, Gondorf, Gebre Selassie - Volland (fifth yellow card), Retsos, Baumgartlinger, Henrichs

Attendance: 42,500

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