VfL Wolfsburg vs Werder Bremen 3–1: Wolfsburg keep their chances for a Europa League spot alive

Werder Bremen likely to miss a European finish for the second year running.

Werder Bremen haven’t ended up outside of the European spots two years in a row since the 97/98 season. Thomas Schaaf’s men are also on course to play the worst Rückrunde in club history. Only 13 points were gathered from the last 15 matches going into today’s match. Werder’s only chance of reaching the 7th place this season was Hannover dropping points away against Leverkusen, while the green and whites had to win away against Wolfsburg.

Line up and tactics: Injuries forces Schaaf to be creative, Helmes returns for Wolfsburg

Felix Magath could once again rely on Patrick Helmes, who was out with an injury on the previous match day. Helmes had scored 7 goals in the last 8 matches going into the game. Schaaf on the other was forced to improvise, bringing Clemens Fritz and Sokratis back into the starting line up after their suspensions, dropping Francois Affolter and Florian Trinks to the bench. Schaaf kept Sokratis in the center of defense, leaving youngster Aleksandar Stevanovic as right back despite the 20-year-olds awful performance against Bayern München on the previous matchday.

First half: Even and entertaining contest

It took only 10 seconds before the first big chance of the match occurred. Lukas Schmitz’s back pass found Wolfsburg striker Mario Mandzukic, but the Croatian failed to get the ball past Tim Wiese, who also kept out Patrick Helmes follow-up shot. Werder took charge of the game after the shock of the opening seconds, and created a number of chances. Pizarro’s shot from within the penalty area was kept out by Diego Benaglio in the 6th minute. Four minutes later Pizarro’s strike partner Markus Rosenberg had the chance to put Werder in front, but the Swede failed to get the ball past Benaglio from a narrow angle. Aaron Hunt also took a shot from distance in the 14th minute, but the Swiss international Benaglio showed once again why Wolfsburg extended his contract until 2016 this week.

After a down period the action picked up again after half an hour. Markus Rosenberg missed the goal with a shot in the 32 minute. Five minutes afterwards Mario Mandzukic got on the end of an excellent combination by the Wolves, but the 25-year-old striker didn’t cause any problem for Tim Wiese in the Werder goal. However, Wiese didn’t stand a chance just 2 minute afterwards. A long ball found Patrick Helmes in a offside position, the striker passed the ball back to Hasan Salihamidzic, whose shot from 20 meters found the bottom left corner of the Werder goal.

Werder managed to get an equalizer just before the break. A free kick from the right hand side found the head of Tom Trybull, who managed to steer the ball towards Markus Rosenberg. The Swede made no mistakes in front of goal and got his tenth goal of the season.

Second half: Bremen struggle to contain Helmes

Wolfsburg dominated at the start of the second half, but didn’t manage to create any noteworthy chances. Thomas Schaaf chose to bring on another striker in Niclas Füllkrug after 65 minutes, taking off right back Stevanovic. Clemens Fritz slotted into the right back position after the swap. However Schaaf’s courage wasn’t to be rewarded. Only one minute after the change, Benaglio managed to catch a poor free kick by Naldo. The Swiss international quickly initiated the counter attack, Vierinha found Patrick Helmes with his pass, and the former German international scored for the 8th time in 9 games.

Both Werder and Wolfsburg had chances after the 2-1, but it was Wolfsburg who managed to put the game beyond all doubt only moments before the final whistle. Mandzukic found Helmes with an excellent pass two minutes from time, and the Helmes didn’t need to be asked twice, bringing the score to 3-1 with his 11th goal of the season.

Final verdict: Werder Bremen’s crisis worsening

The clouds have been gathering, and it is starting to pour in Bremen. The team was 7 points clear of a non Europa League finish after the Hinrunde, but their dire performance in the Rückrunde has seen the river islanders miss out on a European finish, yet again. Tim Wiese and Marko Marin are leaving the club at the end of the season, and Claudio Pizarro is likely to follow. Klaus Allofs faces another stressful summer, trying to replace a number of key players. One question Allofs undoubtedly has to ask himself after the season is over: Is Thomas Schaaf the right coach to take this team forward into the next season as well? Schaaf’s tactics have become predictable, and the results the manager has achieved haven’t lived up to the standards the board and the fans demand. Furthermore, Bremen are now 8 games without a win.

Wolfsburg on the other hand have managed to get within a point of Hannover. However, Hannover plays against Kaiserslautern at home on the last match day of the season, making a Europa League finish a really tough ask for Wolfsburg.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 32-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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