Bundesliga: Werder Bremen keep survival hopes alive
SC Paderborn 1-5 Werder Bremen
(Sabiri 66' - Klaassen 20' 39', Osako 34', Eggestein 59', Füllkrug 90+2')
Listening to Florian Kohfeldt in recent weeks, one could have been forgiven for assuming that Werder Bremen were safe in mid-table and counting down the games until the end of the season.
In his weekly interviews and press conferences, the 37-year-old has remained calm and collected, responding to increasingly serious questions with a smile on his face.
Why do Werder have the worst chance conversion in the Bundesliga? Why are Werder so vulnerable from headers and set pieces? Why had no Werder substitute scored a goal this season or even contributed an assist?
And most pressingly: can the 2004 German double winners avoid a first relegation from the Bundesliga in 39 years? Kohfeldt's simple answer ahead of kick-off in Paderborn on Saturday: "Ja."
That confidence didn't seem misplaced as his team raced into a 3-0 half-time lead, ultimately running out 5-1 winners and effectively relegating Paderborn back to the second division.
Encouraging signs for Bremen
As for Werder, their survival hopes are still very much alive and, encouragingly, key players are rediscovering their form just in time.
Davy Klaassen netted a first-half brace, including a brilliant header from beyond the same penalty spot where Milot Rashica had seen a penalty saved just moments earlier.
Soon after, Yuya Osako scored for the first time in 17 games, stroking home a rebound after neat work from Josh Sargent, whose all-round performance earned him a special clap on the shoulder from Kohfeldt as the players left the field at half-time.
In the second half, Maximilian Eggestein scored his first goal of the season before Niclas Füllkrug marked his first appearance since September with a goal – the first this season by a Bremen substitute, correcting that worrying statistic.
Werder's continuing vulnerability from set-pieces was exposed again when Abdelhamid Sabiri pulled one back for Paderborn, but Juri Pavlenka pulled off a series of good saves late on to ensure that the improvements to his team's goal difference weren't thrown away.
It was a day where everything finally clicked for Werder, all over the pitch. And there was an added boost after the full-time whistle when news of Borussia Dortmund's late win over Fortuna Düsseldorf filtered through.
Bremen are now level on points with Düsseldorf and only one goal worse off with three games to play. And Florian Kohfeldt is still smiling.