Thursday, October 23, 2008
Werder Bremen and Panathinaikos play to draw in Athens
In a tumultuous battle the Green-Whites fought back in Athens to earn a 2-2 draw against Panathinaikos.
Per Mertesacker put Werder Bremen in front 1-0 a minute shy of the half hour mark when a Mesut Özil free kick saw him unmarked behind the Greek defense and immediately slammed it behind goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas. Without bias it was pretty clear that the volley was controlled off Per's arm and should have been called-back however chalk another missed call in important Football matches. However behind the scenes and relatively quietly a minute before Markus Rosenberg was brought in for Claudio Pizarro, thus nullifying a key aspect of the Green-Whites attack.
However whether Henk Ten Cate used that missed call as a rallying cry for his forces or the home crowds support pushed them on, Panathinaikos was immediately pushing Werder backwards. On the surface it looked like Bremen was slowing the match down but either way it wasn't an effective approach. With roughly fourteen minutes left before the half, Evagelos Mantzios flicked on a Gabriel cross and the Greek squad's confidence noticeably soared.
The match continued as mostly a box-to-box dalliance until the Evagelos Mantzios scored his second of the night with twenty-two minutes remaining. With Andreas Ivanschitz swinging in the corner, Loukas Vintra headed the ball past Christian Vander but as it approached the line, Mesut Özil cleared it off with what I can best describe as something you'd try in a game of "keep-uppy". With the ball flicked out, most of the home squad was looking towards the referee that the goal had passed the line. However with ball looping out of the box, Evagelos Mantzios rose up and headed a long slow ball that cleared over the finger-tips of the outstretched 'keeper. Dimitrios Salpingidis nearly put the match out of reach five minutes later as his drive pounded off the crossbar. However at that point Werder Bremen slowly woke up and began to attack more. With seven minutes remaining they were rewarded as Mesut Özil swung in a perfect cross that Hugo Almeida headed-in and saved the night for the Green-Whites.
Much can be said of this match from the Green-Whites perspective from the loss of Claudio Pizarro early and sub-par performances by Diego and Torsten Frings. While it is unlikely to be mentioned anywhere, the club headed to Athens a day early to avoid possible travel disruption due to labour disruption in Greece. In the end, with a great chance to sink their competition and go a long way in advancing to the knockout stage, they fell short. With three draws in three Champions League matches they'll need to defeat Anorthosis in Cyprus later this month if they are to advance.