Bremen’s survival bid goes to the wire after goalless first leg

Bremen (Germany) (AFP) – Werder Bremen were held to a 0-0 draw at home to second-division side Heidenheim in the Bundesliga promotion/relegation play-off first leg on Thursday as the former German champions fight to stay up.

Bremen captain Niklas Moisander is suspended for the second leg on Monday after being sent off for a second yellow card three minutes from the final whistle for a clumsy sliding tackle.

“That wasn’t a good performance for us, but there weren’t many chances for either side,” said Bremen head coach Florian Kohfeldt.

“It’s half-time in the play-off, we didn’t allow them an away goal, so it’s all about Monday now.”

Heidenheim wasted a golden chance to sneak a winner two minutes into added time when defender Timo Beermann headed agonisingly wide.

Bremen, who won the last of their four German league titles in 2003-04, have spent more seasons than any other team in the Bundesliga.

They were relegated to the second tier for the 1980-81 season, the only time in 57 years they were not in the top-flight.

Heidenheim, based in south-west Germany, are seeking to reach the top division for the first time and are 90 minutes from potentially joining promoted duo Arminia Bielefeld and Stuttgart in the Bundesliga next season.

Bremen snatched their place in the play-off with a stunning 6-1 thrashing at home to Cologne last Saturday on the final day of the Bundesliga season, but they could not repeat the performance.

The home side dominated possession in the first half at the Weser Stadion but could not break down Heidenheim’s disciplined defence.

At the other end, Heidenheim’s Argentinian forward Kevin Sessa tested Bremen goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka twice in the first 45 minutes.

A thunderstorm over the north-west German coast meant the second half was played in a deluge.

Bremen’s Japanese striker Yuya Osako headed wide of the post 11 minutes from time.

A low long-range strike from substitute forward Fin Bartels forced Heidenheim goalkeeper Kevin Mueller into a solid late save before Beermann headed wide at the other end in the dying stages.

“I congratulated them for a very disciplined performance,” said Heidenheim head coach Frank Schmidt, who kept his team in a huddle after the final whistle.

“We didn’t really allow them a clear chance all game and we are strong at home,” he added, looking ahead to next week’s return fixture.

Schmidt, who took charge in 2007 when Heidenheim were in Germany’s fifth tier, is the longest serving coach in German professional football and has led them to three promotions.

They came close to a German Cup upset last season when it took a late Robert Lewandowski penalty to seal Bayern Munich’s 5-4 win over Heidenheim at the Allianz Arena in the quarter-finals.

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