Werder Bremen took a major step towards European football next season by beating top-six rivals Hertha Berlin 2-0 at the Weser Stadium on Matchday 31.
Werder Bremen 2-0 Hertha Berlin
Up against a youthful Hertha defence, Bremen drew first blood within nine minutes. When the visitors committed too many men forward for a free-kick, they were caught cold by a classic counterattack, Max Kruse teeing up Fin Bartels, who slotted through Rune Jarstein's legs. Six minutes later and Bartels turned provider, capitalising on a scuffed clearance from Jarstein to feed Kruse, who made no mistake in front of an open goal. The lead duly established, Robert Bauer and Maximilian Eggestein went close from distance as Bremen dominated before the break, with Hertha's only chance headed over by Vladimir Darida.
Both sides traded blows at the start of the second half – Zlatko Junuzovic went close for Bremen; Salomon Kalou hit the side-netting for Hertha – but otherwise the hosts were content to cede possession to the Berliners and look to hit on the break. Werder almost had a third in the 71st minute after substitute Thomas Delaney tricked his way into the box, but Theodor Gebre Selassie sent the Dane's low cross over the bar. It mattered little in the final reckoning, though: Bremen saw the game out untroubled to claim a vital three points in the race for Europe.
Man of the Match
Following four goals against Ingolstadt last week, Kruse turned in another superb display this time out. The 29-year-old's inch-perfect pass set up Bartels for the opener, before he finished calmly for Bremen's second. Joachim Löw, are you watching?
This win sends Bremen sixth, within a point of fifth-placed Hertha. Although it's a tough run-in with Cologne, Hoffenheim and Borussia Dortmund to come, Alexander Nouri's men – without defeat in 11 games – will be full of confidence that they can secure UEFA Europa League football and bring European nights back to the Weser next season.
- The last time Bremen were two goals up on home turf was in a 4-1 home win against Stuttgart in September 2007.Kruse has scored 12 goals in the second half of the season (14 in total).Bartels and Kruse have been involved in goals in each of Bremen's last six games.
Werder Bremen: Wiedwald - Veljkovic, Sane, Moisander - Eggestein (Bargfrede, 73') - Gebre Selassie, Grillitsch (Delaney, 46'), Junuzovic (c), Bauer - Bartels (Gnabry, 77'), Kruse
Coach: Alexander Nouri
Hertha Berlin: Jarstein - Pekarik (Baak, 87'), Langkamp, Torunarigha, Mittelstädt - Skjelbred (Duda, 63'), Allan - Esswein (Haraguchi, 73'), Darida, Kalou – Ibisevic (c)
Coach: Pal Dardai
Watch: In-form striker Kruse reflects on Bremen's run of form