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Bremen and Hamburg post key UEFA Cup wins

Werder Bremen and Hamburg are both in pole position to reach the semifinals of the UEFA Cup. The two German sides dispatched their opponents 3-1 in their quarterfinal first leg matches.

UEFA General Secretary David Taylor, left, next to Giorgio Marchetti, right, UEFA Director of professional football, removes the balls containing the names of the soccer clubs, during the drawing of the matches for the UEFA Cup 2008/09 second qualifying round, at the UEFA Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, Friday, Aug. 1, 2008.

Bremen and Hamburg are still dreaming of lifting the UEFA cup

An all German UEFA Cup semifinal match-up is now looking very likely. The two Bundesliga soccer sides left in the competition scored convincing first leg victories in the last eight. Both Werder Bremen and Hamburg beat their opposition 3-1 on home turf on Thursday.

The German teams will face each other in the semifinal, if they both progress, and Thursday's wins are big steps in the right direction. One evening after Bayern Munich - the richest and most successful club in Germany - were pummeled 4-0 by Barcelona in the Champions League, Werder Bremen and Hamburg did what they could to restore the reputation and pride of the German teams in European competition.

Talisman Trochowski

Germany's Piotr Trochowski celebrates after scoring during the World Cup group 4 qualifying soccer match between Germany and Wales in Moenchengladbach , western Germany Wednesday Oct.15 , 2008.

Trochowski also plies his trade for the German national side

Hamburg secured their 3-1 win despite falling behind to Manchester City early on. It took City's Steve Ireland just 34 seconds to find the net from close range, but this goal turned out to be the catalyst for an impressive attacking performance from the hosts, Hamburg.

Man City goalkeeper Shay Given was immediately called into action, saving brilliantly from David Jarolim, Mladen Petric and then Michael Gravgaard as Hamburg pushed for the equalizer. Defender Joris Mathijsen eventually put the match all square in the ninth minute, heading home a corner from German international Piotr Trochowski.

Trochowski scored the next one himself, slotting home a penalty shortly after the hour mark, and the winger later set up substitute Jose Paolo Guerrero to make it 3-1 with a little over 10 minutes left in the match. Since the departure of Dutch international Rafael van der Vaart over the summer, Trochowski has established himself as the new playmaker in HSV's midfield.

Trochowski and his teammates travel to Manchester next week to try to defend their lead. City have been inconsistent this season, but with big name players like Brazilian forward Robinho in their lineup, they certainly have the firepower to cause Hamburg problems in the second leg.

Double for Diego

Diego celebrates after scoring a Bundesliga goal against VfB Stuttgart earlier this season.

Rumour has it Diego might be moving to Italy in the summer

Another midfield maestro was instrumental in Werder Bremen's 3-1 win against Italian outfit Udinese. Brazilian playmaker Diego notched two goals for Bremen, as Udinese failed to close down the dangerous number 10 in the final third of the pitch.

Diego's first strike - an angled drive from the edge of the box - came after 34 minutes. Then, midway through the second half, he curled home another shot from just inside the penalty area. Portuguese forward Hugo Almeida made it 3-0 moments later, after racing clear of the Udinese defense.

However, the visitors rallied to get a goal back in the dying moments through Fabio Quagliarella, an away goal that gives the Italians a glimmer of hope for the second leg.

Sparing the Bundesliga's blushes

Munich's head coach Juergen Klinsmann reacts during the German first division Bundesliga soccer match between VfL Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich in Wolfsburg, Germany, Saturday, April 4, 2009.

Klinsmann wants more from his players, Bayern fans want more from him

These two convincing home wins have helped restore the reputation of German club teams in Europe, after Bayern Munich were destroyed 4-0 by Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

Bayern are the last German team left in European soccer's premier competition, but barring a minor miracle in the second leg, their run in the tournament is now at an end.

Last weekend, Bayern were dismantled 5-1 in the Bundesliga at the hands of Wolfsburg. Now, after two humiliating defeats in succession, rumour has it that coach Juergen Klinsmann could soon be out of a job.

The mass-circulation Bild newspaper is reporting that it is "as good as certain" that Klinsmann and Bayern will part ways this summer, if not before. Klinsmann, who coached the German national side in the 2006 World Cup, says he has no intention of stepping down.

Defending Bundesliga champions Bayern are currently fourth in the German league table with 48 points, three adrift of the leaders Wolfsburg. Hamburg are second, trailing Wolfsburg on goal difference only, and they'll be hoping that their European adventure doesn't put them off their domestic title charge. As for Werder Bremen, European football looks like their best chance at lifting silverware this season -- they are currently mired in 10th position as we near the end of a disappointing and inconsistent Bundesliga season.

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