In a weekly addition to the football randomness, I’ll be picking out a game a little off the radar and giving my in-depth report on a match likely to get a lot less love in the newspapers the next day.
With a night free of English interest in the Champions League, the Sky Sports multi-screen roulette (closing my eyes and pressing a number on the remote) served up the second leg match between Sampdoria and Werder Bremen, which was perfect considering I watched the first leg last week.
Werder Bremen striker Claudio Pizarro denied Sampdoria a place in the Champions League group stages after a late Markus Rosenberg strike took the play-off second leg into extra time.
Sampdoria struggled to recover from the Swede’s 93rd minute goal as the standout performer on the night Antonio Cassano, could only watch on from the dugout as hopes of Champions League football quickly disintegrated.
Despite holding a 3-1 lead from the first leg, the German side looked unlikley to progress on the evidence of their first half performance. Bremen’s laboured start to the game showed signs that the side was still suffering from the effects of an opening day 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Hoffenheim.
Bremen carved out the first real chance of the game as unmarked Austrian defender Sebastien Prödl headed wide from an early corner. But it was the dangerous movement of Cassano and Pazzini that caused real problems for the German outfit’s backline.
It took just eight minutes for Sampdoria to take the lead and it came as a result of a raking long ball from Lithuanian left back Marius Stankevičius picking out Cassano out on the left. The diminutive Italian delivered a hanging cross to the far post where Pazzini headed in to put Sampdoria 1-0 up.
Pazzini who scored that key goal in the first leg, then put the Bluerchiati 2-0 up levellng the tie in spectacular fashion in the 13th minute. After Prödl was adjudged to have fouled Cassano, the resulting free-kick met the right boot of Pazzini who volleyed the ball past a hapless Wiese.
Young winger Marko Marin posed the most genuine threat for the German outfit in the opening 20 minutes, but struggled to get beyond Stankevičius or deliver with any real quality from out wide, as a hungrier Sampdoria looked to sew up the tie.
Pazzini could have put a little more distance between the two sides coming close to a first-half hat-trick in the 40th minute as the unmarked striker saw his header cleared off the line by right back Clemens Fritz.
Bremen came out a different side in the second half, but goalkeeper Curci still remained largely untested in the Sampdoria goal. It took around the hour mark for Torsten Frings to impose his languid style on the game, helping to instigate attacks from his deep lying role, but it was Cassano who looked most capable of unlocking the German side’s defence once again.
Schaaf made his first change just after the hour mark bringing Marko Arnautović on for the ineffective Tim Borowski, with the Austrian almost making an instant impact with a teasing ball narrowly evading the path of forward Wagner.
In a bid to hold onto their slender advantage, versatile midfielder Fernando Tissone replaced Stefano Guberti who was noticeably upset with manager Domenico Di Carlo’s tactical decision. Injury curtailed Tissone’s brief appearance to stiffen up the midfield and had to be replaced by Mannini.
Bremen were forced into a change that proved pivotal in the tie when Schaaf was forced to bring Swedish striker Markus Rosenberg into the fold after Wagner clashed with defender Gastaldello.
Cassano, whose influence in the final third had quietened, put Sampdoria one step closer to the Champions League proper in the 85th minute with an audacious back heeled finish. Semioli who looked suspiciously offside in the build up, directed a low cross into the box where Cassano was lurking to flick the ball as Wiese’s desperate efforts could not stop the ball from trickling over the line.
Marin’s presence grew in the second half as Bremen chased the game, but his efforts looked to be in vain. With just one goal needed to send the tie into extra-time, Rosenberg, the forward who had fallen out of favour with Schaaf, found space out on the right and sent his shot across Curci and into the back of the net.
With Sampdoria bereft of the craft of Cassano who had been substituted minutes after his goal in normal time, Bremen looked more comfortable coping with Pazzini and Cassano’s replacement Poli, as Marin continued to find more space out on the left hand side. It was Marin who came closest first in extra time hitting the bar after drifting in from the left hand side and rifling a right-footed shot which rattled the frame of the goal.
With legs and minds noticeably tiring, the decisive moment came in the 10th minute after some quick feet from Marin the winger found Peruvian striker Pizarro who ignored the free Rosenberg and drilled the ball past Curci.
Marin whose performance deserved a goal, was denied once again by the post in the dying minutes of extra time, but it was fitting that the German youngster often frustrating in the first half, reminded supporters that there is life after Ozil.