Werder Bremen captain Niklas Moisander was shown a second yellow card in the final minutes as his team were held to a goalless draw by Bundesliga 2 side Heidenheim in the first leg of the relegation play-off.
Having played with a four-man defence all season, Heidenheim coach Frank Schmidt made a surprising switch to a three-man backline in Bremen and it worked well in the first half. The home side controlled over 70 per cent of the first 45 minutes' possession, but Heidenheim had the better of the chances on goal. Tim Kleindienst forced an awkward save from Jiri Pavlenka with his powerful strike from range on 25 minutes, but the offside flag was raised in the build-up. Maurice Multhaup broke into the Bremen box just after the half-hour mark but sliced his shot wide at the near post before impressive 19-year-old Kevin Sessa – making his first start of the season – had a shot blocked by the Bremen defence. Milot Rashica was heavily involved in the first half on the ball, but Heidenheim's Kevin Müller did not have a safe to make in the opening period.
The second half followed in similar suit as the heavens opened in Bremen with heavy rain adding further difficulty to either side's plans. The home side continued their domination of the possession but struggled to break through Heidenheim's defence. Bremen began to push on further up the pitch later in the second half with Yuya Osako sending a header wide at the near post and Fin Bartles forced the first save of the game after 84 minutes with his low shot being collected by Müller. With just three minutes to play, Bremen captain Niklas Moisander was shown his second yellow card meaning he will miss the deciding second leg at Heidenheim on Monday. Timo Beermann had the final chance of the game, but could only watch his header from a corner bounce agonisingly wide of the Bremen goal.
- Heidenheim have now kept 17 clean sheets in their 37 competitive appearances this season.
- After hitting six last weekend against Cologne, Werder were held by Heidenheim with the home side only able to register one shot on target.
- Moisander received the third red card from a second bookable offence of his Bremen career and will, therefore, miss the second leg in Heidenheim.
- Kevin Sessa, 19, made his first start for Heidenheim in the club's biggest game to date, making just his third appearance for the club.
- Heidenheim's Schmidt is the longest-serving head coach in Germany's top two divisions, having taken charge of the side in September 2007.
- Heidenheim midfielder Niklas Dorsch is a Bayern Munich academy graduate and even made one first-team appearance for Germany's most decorated team, starting (and scoring) in a 4-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 32 of the 2017/18 season.
Watch: Kohfeldt on Moisander's red: "We have a lot of options"
Bremen: Pavlenka - Gebre Selassie, Veljkovic, Moisander (c) Friedl (Augusinsson 77') - M. Eggestein, Bargfrede (Groß 65'), Klaassen (Bittencourt 65') - Osako (Sargent 84'), Füllkrug (Bartels 65'), Rashica
Unused subs: Kapino, Toprak, Selke, Pizarro
Out: Langkamp (thigh), Möhwald (knee), Sahin (hip), Vogt (suspended)
Coach: Florian Kohfeldt
Heidenheim: Müller - Busch, Mainka, Beermann - Griesbeck (c) – Multhaup (Schnatterer 69'), Sessa (Kerschbaumer 59'), Dorsch, Theuerkauf (Föhrenbach 83') – Thomalla (Otto 69'), Kleindienst
Unused subs: Eicher, Hüsing, Mohr, Schimmer, Leipertz
Out: Feick (knee), Thiel (knee)
Coach: Frank Schmidt
Watch: Schmidt: "We can beat anyone at home"