Yuya Osako scored a brace with Milot Rashica, Niclas Füllkrug, Davy Klaassen and Josh Sargent also on target in an emphatic 6-1 win for Werder Bremen over Cologne, completing part one of a potential great escape for the Green-Whites.
For Bremen, the stakes were simple: win, or be relegated. Though even victory carried no guarantees, the alternative did not bear thinking about for Florian Kohfeldt's men. They consequently committed players forward and had early shots on goal through Osako and Rashica. Timo Horn, who was in for a busy afternoon, dealt with both adequately, while his opposite number Jiri Pavlenka prevented Anthony Modeste from increasing their challenge. The drama really started to unfold midway through the first half when Osako collected Maximilian Eggestein's screwed shot and transformed it into a survival lifeline for Bremen. Just moments after Union Berlin took the lead against Fortuna Düsseldorf – a scoreline which catapulted Bremen up to 16th – Rashica strengthened his side's claim for a second chance. He beat Horn with a low shot inside his near post, before Füllkrug met Marco Friedl's cross to make it three within half an hour.
Cologne coach Markus Gisdol had seen enough and he made three changes for the start of the second 45 minutes, while Sargent entered the fray for Bremen in place of the injury-plagued Füllkrug. With a fourth goal needed to keep Bremen's heads above water in the event of Fortuna equalising in Berlin, the hosts continued to push, with Osako going close five minutes in. Klaassen then pounced to get that potentially precious fourth goal after Rashica hit the post, and with Fortuna falling two goals behind, the sun was starting to shine brightly on Bremen in a literal and figurative sense. Osako added a fifth from Theodor Gebre Selassie's cross before Dominick Drexler made things interesting again with a consolation for Cologne. Sargent plundered Bremen's sixth, though, to secure the northern Germany side another shot at survival, with a play-off to come against the team who finish third in Bundesliga 2. For Bremen's 41-year-old Peruvian striker Claudio Pizarro, who came on for the final few minutes, retirement will now have to wait for a couple more games.
- Füllkrug made his first start since Matchday 4. After a lengthy injury absence and three substitute appearances, he ends the season with four goals in as many starts.
- With four goals in his past four games, Osako took his tally for the season to a personal best of eight. That beats the seven he scored in 2016/17 when he played for Cologne.
- Klaassen's seventh goal of the season was his first at the Weser-Stadion.
- Bremen had scored just nine goals in 16 home games this season. It was the first time they netted six in a single game under Kohfeldt.
- Bremen’s eight-goal joint-leading marksman Rashica scored his first goal since December's 6-1 loss to Bayern Munich – ending a 1,350-minute drought.
Watch: Moisander: "It doesn't mean anything"
Bremen: Pavlenka - Veljkovic, Vogt (Bargfrede 81'), Moisander (c) - Gebre Selassie, M. Eggestein, Klaassen (Bartels 74'), Friedl - Osako (Pizarro 88'), Füllkrug (Sargent 46'), Rashica (Bittencourt 87')
Unused subs: Kapino, Augustinsson, Selke, Toprak
Out: Langkamp (thigh), Möhwald (knee), Sahin (hip)
Coach: Florian Kohfeldt
Cologne: Horn (c) - Bornauw, Czichos, Leistner (Höger 46') - Ehizibue, Skhiri, Rexhbecaj (Thielmann 46'), Jakobs (Lemperle 75') - Drexler – Uth (Katterbach 46'), Modeste (Clemens 75')
Unused subs: Kessler, Schmitz, Schindler, Jorge Mere
Out: Cordoba (groin), Hector (personal reasons), Kainz (suspended), Kessler (cold), Risse (knee), Terodde (match fitness)
Coach: Markus Gisdol