HEIDENHEIM: Werder Bremen narrowly edged hosts Heidenheim on the away goals rule in their Bundesliga promotion-relegation playoff on Monday to preserve their top-flight status.

Three goals in the last five minutes ensured a lively end to a 2-2 draw after the two teams had played out a goalless stalemate in last Thursday’s first leg in Bremen.

Heidenheim defender Norman Theuerkauf turned the ball into his own net in the third minute to hand Werder the lead.

Ludwig Augustinsson added a 94th minute strike while Tim Kleindienst equalised twice for Heidenheim, who finished third in the second division and were hoping to get promoted to the top flight for the first time.

Werder have spent only one season outside the German top flight but were forced into the playoff after finishing third from bottom this season.

“I’m just happy and glad that we made it after all that,” said Bremen coach Florian Kohfeldt.

“We were dead so many times this year, we always came back,” he added after Bremen had only qualified for the relegation play-off on the last day of the season. “It’s an incredible pressure that is off us all. Every criticism was justified, but chapeau to the boys.”

A group of around 50 fans made their way into the stadium with less than half an hour to play and began cheering and encouraging the home side, but they were made to leave some minutes later. No fans were supposed to be at either of the two games due to strict hygiene measures against the coronavirus.

Bremen’s nervy survival meant there was no final appearance for Peruvian veteran Claudio Pizarro in what would probably have been his final game. The 41-year-old forward remained on the substitutes bench.

Heidenheim, based in the state of Baden-Wrttemberg in southwestern Germany, have progressed from the local fifth-tier Oberliga level since Frank Schmidt took over as coach in 2007. Schmidt, who previously played for the club, is the longest serving coach of one team in Germany.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2020