Nicolai Müller and Okazaki scored within the first 17 minutes, and the completion of Okazaki's brace with 20 minutes to play should have closed the game out. However, Eljero Elia and Franco di Santo inspired hope late on for the hosts only to see their efforts fall short of taking a share of the spoils.
Müller predatory early
Di Santo, whose injuries and suspensions have hitherto restricted his first-team opportunities, began with the willingness but lack of finesse in front of goal which would come to characterise Bremen’s first-half display. After two minutes, he forced his way in behind Mainz’s defence, but was well-shepherded clear. It was Bremen’s defence which would have the problems, being caught too high up the field as Sebastian Polter played a searching ball in behind. Nicolai Müller, predatory as ever, needed no second invitation to lift a left-footed finish over a stranded Sebastian Mielitz from 30 yards.
Polter almost doubled the lead moments later, but Mielitz redeemed himself by sticking out a foot to deny the close-range drive. Mainz were the more aggressive side after the impetus provided by Müller’s strike, although their second goal came more by luck than judgement. Zdenek Pospech’s attempted cross rebounded back off Mielitz’s bar, to the feet of Okazaki, who volleyed home from inside the six-yard box for his fourth goal of the season.
Bremen come close
That willingness from Bremen was needed more than ever after the second goal, and Cedrick Makiadi provided the drive. His powerful burst led to panic in the Mainz box for the first time, and he followed up his run with a header which rebounded off the post to safety. Both Makiadi and di Santo then directed free headers from two of Aaron Hunt’s four corners straight at keeper Loris Karius.
Karius remained involved after the break as Bremen continued to push forward in an attempt to get themselves back into the encounter. Their pressure so nearly told as di Santo’s acrobatic 51st-minute header looked destined for the near-post, only for the 20-year-old to defy the Argentinian. Mainz’s gameplan to hit on the counter was hardly cowed, Elkin Soto continually raking deep balls behind for Okazaki.
So near, yet so far
The hosts looked to solve their defensive woes by going forward. Hunt was twice denied by superb Karius saves, the second at full-length across his line in the 67th-minute, just moments before Okazaki would find the crucial third goal. On a rare but perfectly-timed counter-attack, Stefan Bell rolled a low ball in from the right-hand side which eluded a backtracking Bremen defence to be converted, again from close-range, by Okazaki for his second brace in four games.
With five minutes remaining, di Santo had his reward, teeing up Eljero Elia for his third goal of the season. The summer signing then went one step further, setting up a late drama by nodding home at the back post in the 89th minute to inspire hope in the Bremen fans. And although hope dies last, it still wasn't enough, as Mainz hung on for a nervy win.
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