Hamburg 1 – 3 Werder Bremen – Bremen take a more defensive approach and win “Nordderby”

Werder Bremen have won the 96th installment of the “Nordderby” and beat rivals Hamburg away for the first time since 2008.  Goals from Marin (9.), Trybull (45.) and Arnautovic (86.) gave Bremen their first win of the calender year while Hamburg, for all their effort, could only muster up a single goal, Petric (76.)  The win keeps Bremen in 5th place and on course for a European spot while Hamburg are still waiting for their first home win in the Rückrunde.  Hamburg saw more of the ball and pressed all match but Bremen were focused, clinical in front of goal and used their chances well on the break better.

Line ups and Tactics

Not many changes for Hamburg, Rajkovic still deputized for the injured Bruma while Rincon returned to the starting line up after serving his suspension instead of Kacar.  Fink lined up with his preferred 4-4-2.  Thomas Schaaf put out his trademark 4-4-2 midfield diamond, again trusting in his young players to get the job done.  Marin came in for Ekici in the #10 role and Hartherz was pushed out to left back with Trybull in midfield instead of Ignjovski.  The best news of all, Bremen’s talisman Pizarro was back in the starting line up. The Peruvian has scored 14 goals in 19 matches against Hamburg, only Gerd Müller has scored more goals against them. Tactically, Diekmeier and Aogo would be key in this game considering Bremen played a narrow midfield diamond but as it turned out, Bremen held them off quite well and going against Schaaf’s attacking instincts may be the best decision he has made all season.

Formations and key movement.

Bremen absorb the pressure and hit on the break

With Hamburg’s being the home team and playing a high tempo pressing game it was not surprising that they saw more of the ball and were more active in the opening.  Bremen favoring attacking football themselves chose to sit back surprisingly enough. The backline remained flat and neither Hartherz or Fritz ventured forward much, a seemingly conservative yet calculated move by Schaaf.  As mentioned above, Diekmeier and Aogo posed the biggest threat given Bremen’s lack of natural width so Schaaf needed his defenders to be more disciplined and hold their positions.  By keeping his fullbacks more stationary it blocked Hamburg’s pathways out wide rendered much of their play ineffective.  Junuzovic, Bargfrede and Trybull also did well to pick up Jansen and Sala whenever they came inside.

HSV's average position during the match, fullbacks (#2 & #6) pushed very high up the pitch.

This gave Bremen the perfect platform to hit Hamburg on the break. In fact, their first chance to get forward was rewarded with a goal in just the 9th minute.  Rincon lost the ball in midfield and Trybull picked up the ball, passed it to Junuzovic who saw Marin make a run into the box on the right.  The diminutive midfielder picked up the ball with his back to goal, turned and unexpectedly shot the ball into the near post out of Drobny’s line of sight.  Hamburg has yet to win coming from behind this season so the pressure was increased on top of a hostile derby atmosphere.  Aogo’s tried to go his side back into the game and his free kick was met by Guerrero on 12 minutes but Wiese was equal to the challenge.  Guerrero had another chance just five minutes later after being set up by Petric but sent the ball over the goal.  Having stepped up the pressure even more, Bremen found additional chances on the break and Rosenberg nearly made it 2-0 on 20 minutes but Drobny just barely got in the way to block the shot.

Bremen's backline meanwhile sat deep.

Fink wanted a goal before the break so Hamburg stepped up another gear.  Petric received the ball from Sala on 39 minutes, overlooked Guerrero and Jansen who were both in better positions, and had a go himself from 23 meters but the shot went wide.  So focused on getting the equalizer, Hamburg played right into Schaaf’s hands and a minute before the break the visitors got their second. A lightning quick counter from Hartherz and Marin forced a corner.  Junuzovic’s in-swinging cross was met by 18 year old Trybull who got his first Bundesliga goal.  Bremen’s patience paid off as had their game plan.

Hamburg press and pass to no avail

Bremen had the ideal cushion going into the second half.  They have yet to squander a lead this season and Hamburg needed two goals to get anything out of this game.  Fink brought on Ilicevic for Rincon but the way he went about the game didn’t change much.  It became a question of whether Bremen could continue to weather the storm or whether Hamburg could break through and capitalize on an error.  Diekmeier set up Petric with another chance but Drobny’s quick reaction denied the Croatian.  Just as had been the case in the first half, Bremen were dangerous on the break and a minute later Rosenberg squandered a shot after Bargfrede and Marin broke freely on the counter to set him up.  Hamburg had trouble breaking through the middle and most of their chances came from outside the box, either through set pieces or crosses from their wide players. Even their strikers often came out wide because the center had been crowded by up to 5-6 Bremen players at a time.

HSV out-passed Bremen by a large margin but it wasn't enough.

Hamburg were given a lifeline on 75 minutes though.  A Petric free kick from 24 meters was deflected by the wall and past Wiese.  It was Petric’s 50th Bundesliga goal in 118 matches.  The following minutes were crucial.  Bremen avoided a scare after Westermann’s header from a set piece was blocked and were close to giving up their two goal lead.  Another worry for the visitors was the amount of fouls they were giving away outside the box, something uncharacteristic of them this season.  It already led to one goal and it easily could have led to another.  The Hamburg captain then quickly went from near hero to scapegoat after his unfortunate miscommunication with Rajvokic allowed Arnautovic in on goal four minutes from time to put the result beyond any doubt.

Final Verdict

Considering how Hamburg started the season their form is not problematic.  What is worrying though is their home form.  The Hanseatic club have collected just 11 points from 12 games this season at the Imtech-Arena compared to 15 points from 10 games on the road.  Fink’s intense high energy playing style held off Bayern and got Hamburg back on track but this result outlined that the club is still very much a work in process.  In particular, Hamburg need to expand their arsenal during a match and find tactical alternatives when sides like Bremen defend well.  Next up for Hamburg, a trip to Mönchengladbach on Friday.

Schaaf will no doubt be the happier of the two managers.  His side has already won 10 matches, as many as they did all season last year and won their first away match in three months.  The most encouraging thing are the performances of young players like Trybull and Hartherz who have done quite well considering their inexperience.  Marin was also one of the better performers on the pitch which can only bode well for the squad after a rather underwhelming season.  It is unlikely that we will see such a defensive Bremen again though next week when they host Nürnberg but it is exactly the tactical versatility Bremen supporters have been screaming for.

Images courtesy of and

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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