Following their 1-0 home defeat to 1. FC Köln on the Friday night of Match Day 9, it came as no surprise that Werder Bremen management decided to remove trainer Robin Dutt and bring in a new man to stop the rot.
The rot of which I speak led to one of the worst season starts in long memory for the Grün-Weißen: five defeats, no wins, and just four points to show for nine matches’ work. Sitting bottom of the heap with an average of 2.5 goals per game conceded, it was time to react.
Admirably the club resisted the temptation to parachute a seasoned veteran coach into the disaster (a solution so often seen in most European leagues) and opted instead to promote Viktor Skripnik from within its own ranks.
Enter the Skripniker
The Ukrainian trainer’s first game in a Bundesliga dugout came at the Coface Arena as Werder travelled to Mainz, who were sixth in the table at the time, having lost just once. When Shinji Okazaki put the hosts ahead after just three minutes, it looked like a case of “new coach, same problems” with Werder once again conceding early.
But this was not to go the same way as the start of the campaign. Werder turned the game with a Franco Di Santo double.
First, a penalty awarded right at the end of the first half looked to have given the visitors an admittedly undeserved way back into the game. Di Santo, however, saw his spot-kick saved by keeper Loris Karius. Fortunately the Argentine had the composure to head the resulting rebound into the net, and it was “GAME ON!”
Four minutes after the restart, Di Santo produced a moment of sublime magic to give Werder the lead. Felix Kroos picked out the Argentine with a fine pass. The exquisite finish from a tight angle was simply stunning and more-than-deserving of his trademark ‘Cumbia’ goal celebration dance.
Bremen hung on to claim their first win and hand Skripnik a dream start at the helm.
The win was long-awaited, long-overdue, and much-celebrated by the Werder faithful, but was it a false dawn?
No worries on that account, as Skripnik led the Grün-Weißen to five wins during his first nine games in charge, grabbing 16 points, which served as a stark contrast to the meager four achieved in the first nine games of the season under Dutt.
What happened next is well documented. Werder went from relegation certainties to the verge of Europa League qualification. For this, we are eternally grateful for the foresight of the Werder management team.
In Skripnik(er) we trust.
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