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Germans Enhance Champions League Chances

Victories for Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen and an unlucky slip-up for Bayern Munich in the European Champions League mean the German teams are still on course to progress to the knock-out stages.

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Franca was on target as Leverkusen regained their European poise

The topsy-turvy form of Bayer Leverkusen flip-flopped the right way on Tuesday night in their crucial Champions League Group B match against Serie A outfit AS Roma. Klaus Augenthaler's boys took a giant stride towards the knockout phase with a 3-1 win over the hot-headed Italian side.

After an exhilarating start to both Bundesliga and European campaigns, which saw Leverkusen comprehensively beat the likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, Bayer came apart when it appeared they would sweep all before them.

League and cup defeats followed in consecutive weeks but in front of a passionate BayArena crowd, Leverkusen showed great resolve to come back from a damaging Francesco Totti free-kick in the 26th minute to eclipse the Romans who lost the plot and then, consequently, the game.

International talent fires Germans

Leverkusen's win had an international flavor to it with the victory assured by goals from Brazilians Robson Ponte and Franca, and Polish international Jacek Krzynowek. Leverkusen's composed fight back was in stark contrast to the combustion within the highly-strung Roma side, which finished the game with nine men.

Coming from a goal behind against explosive opponents in a cauldron atmosphere could mean that Leverkusen have reached the light at the end of this particular early season tunnel. "The team now realizes what is at stake and I just hope that another setback does not come along," explained coach Augenthaler.

Leverkusen now have six points and are in with a good shout of qualifying for the next stage while Roma look to be out of the competition after failing to register a point from their three European matches so far.

Bayern undone by Pavel the magician

Nedved, Tschechien gegen Dänemark in Porto, EM 2004

Pavel Nedved sealed Bayern's fate in Turin.

Bayern Munich may be passing the Leverkuseners on the autobahn heading in the opposite direction into a tunnel with the back-to-back defeats in the Bundesliga and Champions League. After weakly surrendering to Schalke 04 on Saturday, Bayern fell victim to European Footballer of Year Pavel Nedved and his Juventus side in a hard fought Group C match which the Bavarians lost 1-0.

Meeting for the very first time in European competition, the teams conjured up few clear-cut chances and appeared to be heading for a point apiece until Czech midfielder Nedved latched onto Zlatan Ibrahimovic's flicked header and fired past Oliver Kahn from close range.

European champions on four occasions, Bayern were forced to deploy Dutch international Roy Makaay as a lone striker with fellow forwards Claudio Pizarro, Vahid Hashemian and Roque Santa Cruz all nursing injuries.

Midfielder Sebastian Deisler, who has been suffering from depression, came to Italy with the Bayern squad, but returned home to Germany on Monday afternoon following discussions with coach Felix Magath.

A cagey contest dominated by solid defenses was eventually unlocked by Nedved who pounced on the hour. French defender Lillian Thuram's long ball up field was met by Swedish striker Ibrahimovic, whose deft header set up Nedved and the industrious, floppy-haired midfielder shot left-footed beyond Kahn.

Bayern were denied an equalizer moments later when Gianluigi Buffon tipped Bastian Schweinsteiger's fierce drive over the bar. Bayern, with two wins from their first two Group C matches, now face two home games as they look to secure qualification while unbeaten leaders Juve look assured of a knock-out phase spot with nine points.

Werder on course for next phase

Werder vs. Valencia

Two goals from Bremen's Croat international Klasnic brought Werder closer to the next phase.

Werder Bremen have a fantastic chance of making the knockout phase following a 2-1 Group G win over Anderlecht in Belgium on Wednesday night. It was the same score line by which Werder triumphed the last time the two clubs met here in Europe's premier competition back in the 1993/94 campaign.

A brace from Croatian international Ivan Klasnic cancelled out Christian Wilhelmsson's 26th minute opener and moved the German champions onto six points from their three matches.

"We had a lot of chances for an away match in the Champions League," said Bremen manager Thomas Schaaf. "We were put under pressure but won and that is all that counts."

His comments were echoed by striker Mirolsav Klose who could have had a hat-trick but for some hurried finishing. "We played well and collected the three points so we have to be happy," explained Klose. "We should have wrapped up the match earlier on but wasted a lot of chances."

Wilhelmsson's goal for the home side in the 26th minute spurred Bremen into action and ten minutes later the visitors equalized thanks to a calamitous error from Anderlecht goalkeeper Daniel Zitka which left Klasnic with an open goal. The Croat's second, and the match winner, came in the 59th minute after good work by under-fire Frenchman Johan Micoud and Klose.

A late flurry from the Belgian champions put Werder under pressure but Bremen held their nerve and built on their 2-1 win over Valencia to give themselves a good chance of progressing from the group stage. Bremen sit in second place behind Inter Milan who thrashed Spanish champions Valencia 5-1 to tighten their grip on the top spot.

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