Werder Bremen retained their place in the Bundesliga for next season after overcoming Bundesliga 2 side Heidenheim on away goals thanks to a 2-2 draw in the promotion/relegation play-off second leg on Monday (2-2 on aggregate).
Florian Kohfeldt's side got off to the perfect start, taking the lead after just three minutes when Heidenheim defender Norman Theuerkauf clipped the ball into his own net under pressure from Josh Sargent. That gave Bremen the confidence to keep pushing forward and they had several chances to extend their lead. Milot Rashica saw a swerving shot from distance whistle over the bar, before Davy Klaassen had two close-range headers saved and Sargent forced a good stop from goalkeeper Kevin Müller from the edge of the box. Heidenheim grew into the game as half-time approached and although they were composed on the ball, they never looked like breaking through Bremen's well-drilled defence and only had one shot before the interval.
With the away-goal rule in effect, Heidenheim needed to score twice in order to go up and brought on two forwards in David Otto and Stefan Schimmer at half-time in a bid to do just that. The latter almost found the target within seconds of the restart, first forcing Jiri Pavlenka into a save at full stretch from the edge of the box, before blazing over from the ensuing corner. Otto had the next chance as the home team threw everything forward, but he headed wide from the edge of the six-yard area. Having weathered that early storm, Bremen had three clear-cut chances to put the result beyond all doubt, but neither Milos Veljkovic, Ludwig Augustinsson nor Sargent were able to score from promising openings. That set up an absorbing finale, which was made all the more nail-biting when Tim Kleindienst equalised, the ball ricocheting in off his leg after hitting the crossbar from Tobias Mohr's thundering long-distance shot. Bremen effectively secured their top-flight status late on following a counter-attack as Augustinsson fired into an empty net after superb work from Fin Bartels in the build-up, leaving Kleindienst's last-minute penalty a mere footnote as Werder survived.
- Klaassen captained Bremen for the first time since Matchday 19 at the end of January.
- Theuerkauf's own goal was just the second in his career as a pro - his first came in March 2017 in a 1-1 draw with Kaiserslautern.
- Bremen contributed four players - Marnon Busch, Patrick Mainka, Norman Theuerkauf and Oliver Hüsing - to the Heidenheim defence who conceded a league second-best 36 goals last term.
- Claudio Pizarro concluded his Bremen career having scored 109 goals in 250 Bundesliga appearances across four difference spells with Die Grün-Weißen.
- Heidenheim's Schmidt is the longest-serving coach across the top two divisions of German football, first taking the reins at the Voith-Arena back in September 2007.
- Kleindienst has scored 15 of his 16 competitive goals this season on home turf.
Heidenheim: Müller - Busch (Multhaup 78'), Mainka, Theuerkauf - Schnatterer (c) (Otto 46'), Griesbeck, Föhrenbach - Leipertz (Mohr 67'), Dorsch (Sessa 68') - Kleindienst, Thomalla (Schimmer 46')
Unused subs: Eicher, Hüsing, Kerschbaumer
Out: Feick (knee), Thiel (knee)
Coach: Frank Schmidt
Bremen: Pavlenka - Gebre Selassie, Veljkovic (Langkamp 69'), Vogt, Augustinsson - M. Eggestein, Klaassen (c), Friedl - Osako (Bartels 68'), Sargent (Groß 88'), Rashica (Füllkrug 80')
Unused subs: Kapino, Bittencourt, Bargfrede, Selke, Pizarro
Out: Möhwald (knee), Moisander (suspended)
Coach: Florian Kohfeldt