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|After bad first half, Bremen rolls again - 11 points clear
BY ROY KAMMERER
Mar. 21, 2004 2:25 p.m.
BERLIN (AP) Werder Bremen struggled for 45 minutes Sunday, but then the Bundesliga front-runners showed why they are 11 points clear in the title race, rallying to beat Wolfsburg 2-0.
Bremen charged out with a strong second half and was rewarded when Ivan Klasnic sidefooted in a 75th-minute goal and French midfielder Johan Micoud headed in a second 10 minutes later.
Bremen, which is leading defending champion Bayern Munich by 11 points with just nine rounds remaining, is riding a club record 16 match unbeaten streak. Still, Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf refused to say the Bundesliga title race was over.
"We had some problems today, but we overcame them. We are a very strong team, you could see that again today," Schaaf said.
The same can't be said for second-place Bayern and third-place Stuttgart, which is now 14 points back. Needing a win Saturday, both had draws against the Bundesliga's bottom two clubs.
In Sunday's second match, Paul Agostino's 58th-minute score lifted 1860 Munich to a 1-1 draw against Freiburg, whose goal came from Soumaila Couibaly in the 10th minute.
Bremen had problems in the first half against 10th-place Wolfsburg, which is regarded as talented but underachieving, with little to show for team sponsor Volkswagen's money.
Diego Klimowicz, Wolfsburg's top scorer, sent a 30th-minute close range attempt over the crossbar, standing clear after his teammate's passing cut through Bremen's defense.
But after the break it was a different story in front of 30,000 at Volkswagen Arena.
Bremen ratcheted up the pressure, with Ailton twice thwarted by the heroics of Wolfsburg goalkeeper Sead Ramovic.
The Brazilian lost a chance to up his league best 22 goals when Ramovic pushed his 67th-minute penalty attempt off the post. A minute later, the 'keeper charged out and got his body in front of another attempt by Ailton, through on a breakaway.
But the pressure paid off for Bremen minutes later when Fabian Ernst's cross bounced off a defender's knee and right at Klasnic, lurking at the left post.
Micoud then dived into a cross to head in his ninth goal of the season. In addition to the playmaker's acknowledged passing skills, he's the top scorer among the Bundesliga's midfielders.
Bayern and Stuttgart have yet to write off the title, saying Bremen has to stumble sometime.
"I don't care what they say, Bremen is not going to let anyone take away the title when they're 11 points ahead," Wolfsburg coach Juergen Roeber said.