It wasn't pretty but Bayern Munich claimed a victory over arch rivals Werder Bremen on Saturday, moving up to third in the league with a 2-1 win.
A scrappy game full of yellow cards finally came alive near the end
A capacity 43,000 crowd at the Weser stadium saw Werder Bremen take on Bayern Munich in a physical game punctuated by six yellow cards and two debatable goals.
Munich came out 2-1 in the end, going in front through a Michael Ballack header in the 20th minute which looked suspiciously like a foul on the challenging Bremen player Miroslav Klose.
The first half saw poor displays from both teams and plenty of brutal challenges beginning as early as the third minute when Frank Fahrenhorst clashed with Ballack's elbow and left the field with blood streaming from his nose. The Germany national player did not return, making straight for the hospital instead.
There was precious little ball play in the first 20 minutes, but fans of all-in wrestling will have thoroughly enjoyed what action did materialize with five yellow cards in total being waved in the tempestuous first half.
Bayern's Felix Magath chose to change the winning team which beat Ajax Amsterdam 4-0 in midweek, opting for Sebastian Deisler as a fifth midfielder at the expense of front man Claudio Pizarro.
Otherwise, it was business as usual at the back with a defense including Sammy Kuffour and Hasan Salihamidzic who sought to deal with the threat posed by in-form Miroslav Klose and Croatia hitman Ivan Klasnic, while Owen Hargreaves was charged with containing France playmaker Johan Micoud.
Teams choose physicality over creativity
Bremen looked lackluster and could only count a Borowski drive midway through the first half and a glaring Klasnic miss on the half-hour as their best chances of the opening 45 minutes. Bayern were hardly any better but had more chances, mostly coming from Ballack.
Ballack overcame the constant boos to open Bayern's account.
The Germany captain saw an angled header saved by home keeper Reinke after nine minutes and later side-footed wide with only Reinke to beat.
Greek hero inspires early Bremen pressure
Werder came out fighting for the second period and the visitors were on the back foot for a good few minutes. Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf introduced Greece Euro 2004 hero Angelos Charisteas for Klasnic after the break and the champions immediately piled on the pressure.
Valerien Ismael was lively in the second half but couldn't rally Bremen.
Werder had scored thirteen of their fourteen league goals in the second 45 minutes, and Kahn was swiftly forced into two brave stops within a minute from France defender Valerien Ismaël (photo).
Charisteas was proving a thorn in Bayern's side until Felix Magath brought his defensive tactics into operation in a bid to neutralize the tall Greek striker and his fellow invigorated attackers.
Magath sent on Martin Demichelis and Bastian Schweinsteiger for Deisler and Frings to stiffen the rearguard before the hour, prompting Schaaf to throw on Nelson Valdez as a third striker.
Bad luck befalls Bremen
While Schweinsteiger was supposed to prevent Bremen from scoring, he was instrumental in Bayern's second goal. A cross from Roy Makaay skewed into Michael Ballack's path in front of goal but the midfielder's shot was blocked. The ball spun out to Schweinsteiger whose own shot skimmed off Christian Schulz and arced around Andreas Reinke to give Bayern a 2-0 lead.
But Werder were not finished yet and Klose guaranteed a dramatic last ten minutes with a trademark headed goal from Magnin's 81st minute free-kick. The looping cross evaded a Bayern defense which could be accused of ball watching for the Bremen striker to steal in a nod the ball past Oli Kahn to set a dramatic finale.
In the end, Bayern hung on to claim the three points and exacted revenge for a painful title-clinching home defeat to Bremen last term, leapfrogging the champions in the standings in the process. Bayern now sit in third place and Bremen move down to fourth.