Werder brought to an end Sunday a poor recent run of form to re-ignite their hopes of Europa League qualification with a derby win over rivals Hamburg at the Weser Stadion. A second half penalty from Franco Di Santo was enough to seal the three points for the hosts as HSV’s goal drought continued through the debut of new coach Bruno Labbadia.
Viktor Skripnik made five changes from last week’s defeat at Stuttgart. Goalkeeper Koen Casteels was handed his Werder debut in goal, and Özkan Yildirim also made his first start of the season. Additionally, Davie Selke, Sebastian Prödl, and Alejandro Galvez all returned to the starting XI with Prödl at left-back.
The 102nd Nordderby began with a moving tribute to Werder legend Arno “Pico” Schütz who sadly passed away Tuesday, aged 80. The captain of Werder’s first Bundesliga Champion from 1965 was paid tribute with a minute’s applause.
Werder had the first chance once play began when HSV proffered a free-kick opportunity to danger man Zlatko Junuzovic, but the Austrian dead-ball specialist couldn’t capitalise. Pierre-Michel Lasogga then had the visitors’ first chance, but found debutant Casteels up to the task of saving the shot from distance.
Werder were pressing high and enjoying possession and dominance, but lacking in the quality to find the breakthrough.
Being a derby, there was always going to be plenty of commitment, but Raphael van der Vaart took that commitment to another level with a poorly-timed challenge on Yannik Vestergaard, for which he was lucky not to see a red card. While not malicious (we hope!), to say it was late would be an understatement. It was as if the Dutchman was tackling from a completely different time-zone. Astonishingly, not even a yellow card was dished out by referee Wolfgang Stark. Sadly for Vestergaard, the impact would force him off some minutes later.
With neither side in the best of form (yes, another understatement in HSV’s case!), there was clearly a large dose of nervousness from both. The best chance of the half fell to Hungarian Zoltan Stieber, but he bent his shot wide with keeper Casteels beaten and looking forlornly on with hope rather than any security.
Van der Vaart then avoided a booking after another poor challenge on Prödl. It seemed as if either Stark had forgotten his cards, or the Hamburg midfielder had perhaps bribed the official with some tempting photos of the lovely Sylvie van der Vaart in her bra and undies as recompense for his lenient attitude (legal bit: I am in no way alluding to any impropriety here!).
Wolfgang Stark then proved that he had packed his cards when Heiko Westermann went in late on Prödl. Perhaps Frau Westermann isn’t in the same league as Frau van der Vaart?
Okay, I ‘googled’ her (Irena Westermann) and while beautiful, I can see why the cards were perhaps kept in the pocket for (Mrs) van der Vaart. I’m going to get myself into trouble soon, so I’ll leave it there.
Werder’s best move of the first 45 minutes then saw Selke blaze over after a fine move involving Clemens Fritz and Franco Di Santo.
The second half began much in the same vein as the first, with misplaced passes and ineffectual attacking to the fore. Sadly for the home fans, the most dangerous Werder got was with long throws arrowed in by Prödl and Theodore Gebre-Selassie.
Öztunali was sent on to replace Yildirim and the ex-Hamburg man had a great effort parried by HSV keeper Rene Adler.
With just 12 minutes left, the breakthrough finally came for the home side. Valon Behrami tugged Junuzovic down inside the box to hand Werder a penalty. To make matters worse, it was a case of ‘bye-bye Behrami’ with an ensuing red card.
Franco Di Santo dispatched the spot-kick with aplomb to send the Grün-Weißen fans onto ‘Wolke Neun’ (cloud nine). The three points gained bragging rights and more importantly re-awakened the hopes of European football at the Weser Stadion next season.
Who would have thought that such a sentence could have been written going into the winter break, but there it is.
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