The week was dominated by the news that Bremen's long-time sports director Klaus Allofs was moving to Wolfsburg. On Sunday both teams were victorious. Wolfsburg downed Hoffenheim 3-1, while Bremen beat Düsseldorf 2-1.
Werder Bremen came into the match after a week of distraction, in which Allofs headed for the more lucrative pastures of Wolfsburg. Meanwhile, Fortuna Düsseldorf left their own big name striker, Andriy Voronin, out of the squad after the dissatisfied Ukrainian flipped off reporters at a practice session.
Strategically there were no surprises in this one. Visitors Düsseldorf parked the bus, and Bremen tried to break them down with short passing.
But the hosts were susceptible to counterattacks, and after ten minutes defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos took out Düsseldorf's Robbie Kruse from behind in the box. Jens Langeneke calmly converted from the spot to put the underdogs ahead.
Bremen enjoyed more of the ball, but Fortuna were just as close to a 2-0 lead as the hosts were to an equalizer. There were lots of niggling fouls, and Bremen grew increasingly frustrated as the first half came to a close. In particular, Marko Arnautovic could have been sent off for a half-hearted head-butt.
After the break Bremen intensified their efforts and were rewarded in minute 50. Lukas Schmitz chased down a ball in the corner and popped over a cross for Nils Petersen to head home.
Bremen were the better side but failed to generate the sort of clear chances one would have expected at home against a newly promoted club. And they hurt their own cause when defender Assani Lukimya was sent off after getting his second booking a quarter of an hour from time.
But to their credit Bremen kept pushing for the win despite being shorthanded. And with less than 10 minutes to go, young Belgian Kevin de Bruyne pounded in the game-winner.
"It was clear in advance that the events of the past week wouldn't have an impact on the team, and you could see that from the way they fought," Schaaf said, with reference to Allofs, after the match.
The victory took Bremen all the way up seventh in the table, while Düsseldorf sunk into the relegation zone after Sunday's late result.
Allofs with successful debut
Sunday’s late match featured a disconcerting sight for many Bundesliga fans: Allofs - a figure associated with German football tradition - sitting on the Wolfsburg bench in Hoffenheim. To make matters worse, it’s a fixture mocked by some conservative supporters as “el plastico” due to the perceived corporate nature of the two clubs.
The Wolves’ financial might, relative to Bremen, was no doubt one factor that lured Allofs to the Volkswagen-sponsored club. And in the first half he saw what is possible - if opponents give you a pair of welcoming gifts.
Makoto Hasebe put the visitors ahead in minute seven with a header - no markers were spotted anywhere in the same area code. Then, seventeen minutes later, Roberto Firmino gave the ball away with his side going forward, and Bas Dost doubled Wolfsburg’s advantage.
Hoffenheim had more possession and far more chances, but Wolves keeper Diego Benaglio defused them all. In the second half, the match assumed a rather farcical air, as Hoffenheim generated three times as many shots on goal as Wolfsburg but couldn’t manage to score.
That left it to defender Naldo to seal the deal with less than a quarter of an hour left. The former Bremen man blasted in a free kick from 28 meters out to make it 3-0. Erin Derdiyok completed the scoreline with a meaningless consolation goal just before time.
It’s questionable, though, how much Allofs could conclude from a win against such a bumbling opponent. B7ut he did have some kind words for his colleague of thirteen years, Thomas Schaaf.
“I wrote to Thomas Schaaf wishing him and Bremen luck, and he did the same for me,” Allofs said after the match. “And it must have helped since both teams won today.”
The result means Wolfsburg overtake Hoffenheim in the table. The two clubs are in thirteenth and fourteenth place respectively.