Goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka kicked the post and waved his arms. Striker Niclas Füllkrug dropped to the ground and rolled backwards. Defender Marco Friedl stared into space, lost in thought. And Ole Werner? The SV Werder Bremen coach had long since set out to get his dejected players up with a slap on the bottom or a pinch on the cheek.
About 42,100 other people would have been happy about this emotional turn on Friday evening. They filled Bremen’s Weser Stadium to the last seat, built a wall of optimism from the start and did everything they could to push their Werder team up the crucial steps towards excellence. And it wasn’t the case that their team left no stone unturned against Holstein Kiel, that they ran too little, straddled too little or played forward despondently. No, the team couldn’t be blamed for all that. Nevertheless, Werder lost 2:3. Despite a 2-0 lead. After one of those evenings, which could later be entered as the beginning of all evil in the Bremen season chronicle.
“I feel pure disappointment,” said Werder defender Anthony Jung
Because at about the time when the Werder players were lying on the lawn and being consoled by their coach Werner, striker Simon Terodde scored in distant Sandhausen for the late victory of FC Schalke 04, which put them at the top of the table by mistake and unpredictable second division pushed. So past Bremen again, to whom Royal Blue had lost 4-1 the previous week, in a game that was seen in many places as a preliminary decision in the promotion race – and which only six days later lost almost as much value as it did western politicians would like to observe on the Russian ruble.
“I feel pure disappointment,” said defender Anthony Jung, who does not usually report from his inner life. “It doesn’t work like that,” grumbled captain Friedl. And even the reserved Werner spoke of a “neck blow” that hit him and his team with full force. “But now we’re going to look ahead.”
Werder coach Werner missed promotion with Kiel last season
Not a bad idea, because if you look back, the Werder coach would probably run a complicated loop in his head and come up with not very good memories there. After all, Werner knows the feeling of failing just before the end from last season, when he was still the coach of his home club Holstein, with whom he slipped from the direct promotion ranks shortly before the end of the season and also failed in the relegation.
Werner is still right to point out that a special situation at the time was partly to blame for the failure, since his team was ordered into corona quarantines several times during the hot phase of the season and therefore got out of rhythm. But you could also just call it “misfortune”. And the people of Bremen had enough of that on Friday evening.
There are no citable works in scientific literature that could fully explain a football match like that between Werder and Holstein. With the final whistle, the home team led in all recorded statistics, in ball possession, in the chances created, in the passes received, in the corners kicked into the penalty area. Just not in the only category that is relevant in the end: scoring more goals than your opponent. The Kiel team were able to meet them as best they could after just two minutes when a defender clumsily hit the ball and paved the way for the 1-0 through striker Füllkrug. After 20 minutes, the other Werder striker, Marvin Ducksch, stylishly converted a hand penalty to make it 2-0.
You have to win two games now, said Bremen’s Marco Friedl, “otherwise we won’t get promoted”
“The game starts brilliantly for us,” said defender Friedl. And it would probably have ended in a win if Kiel hadn’t scored the avoidable goal just before the half-time whistle – after a Kiel corner kick, several failed attempts to clear Bremen and a shot deflected by Füllkrug, which was counted as an own goal. “That’s how we bring the opponent back into the game,” complained Werder coach Werner, “and then in the end we give the game completely out of hand.”
That was perhaps an oversimplified analysis. Because Werder got a bit more agitated and caught two simple goals at the back, which you shouldn’t catch in the promotion race. But those were pretty much the only moments of danger that Holstein could create, whereas Bremen missed so many chances that they would be happy if they could be hitchhiked to the last two games of the season against Aue and Regensburg.
For defender Friedl, the equation is still very simple: “We have to show a reaction and win these games,” he said, “otherwise we won’t get promoted.” Pretty much any institute for applied mathematics would probably confirm this thesis.