Timo Schultz didn’t want to let that happen. The FC St. Pauli coach had a good seat in the press box at the Weser-Stadion in Bremen, in the bright sun and near the stadium. Schultz occasionally had to get up when spectators jumped a few rows from the front and blocked his view. Regardless, the 1-1 draw between SV Werder and 1. FC Nürnberg was a comfortable affair for him.
For Schultz, on Easter Sunday, there was no reason to get emotionally involved in a duel between direct competitors for places of promotion. This is due to the odd competitive situation in Division Two, which makes it obsolete for everyone involved to pull off the slide rule and make calculations about the season’s overtime trajectory. The process should repeat next week anyway, and again the week after that, and so on until the last round of the match on May 15.
By then the game plan will have ensured that all the top teams in Germany’s second league have played with each other several times, after which it will come down to nerves of steel and other nuances – and certainly also to notes such as those made by Schultz about Nuremberg, opponents St. Pauli in two weeks.
The absence of defender Omer Toprak takes a toll on Werder
On the other hand, Schultz is very familiar with the home team, thanks to his work experience the day before. So perhaps the coach thought the 1-1 draw between Werder and St Pauli was very reminiscent of the 1-1 draw between Werder and Nuremberg on Sunday, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the rival scouts were from Darmstadt and Schalke 04. Or Hamburg reached similar results. It’s not hard to fathom what the Bremen side have lost since their multi-week winning streak in the winter: their chief of defense Omer Toprak – and the certainty that strikers Marvin Doksch and Niklas Volkrug score at least one more than their opponents.
Werder’s coach, Ole Werner, didn’t want to talk about the individual players then, and this simplification wouldn’t do him justice. Because Bremen continues to follow an attacking plan, its clarity is reminiscent of first-class football. But there are some things that are irreplaceable in a second-tier side, for example a defender who has proven himself in the Champions League like Toprak, whose delicate wheel is perhaps his only deficiency at this level. And the fact that Toprak, Werner hinted on Sunday, may not be able to play this season at all, has led to some problems for Bremen who simply cannot be trained.
On prime time, i.e. at the absolute wrong time, Werner has to throw his well-trained central pivot into the sea. The coach has to move midfield strategist Christian Gross to the position of Toprak in a three-man defense, which is why the next gap opens an extra row and cannot be properly filled. In the match against Nuremberg, this led to a chain reaction, especially in the first half, because Toprak Werder’s defense lacked central authority, in Gross, the midfield lacked the authority to command.
This was evident, among other things, from the organization that could be improved in the foul that preceded the penalty kick of club striker Nicolas Duvian, which was eventually converted (24th minute). But you can also see it in the slow gameplay structure and in the huge space that opened up to the eleven visitors once they beat the first two pressing streaks. “As a team, we can compensate better than today,” Werner said.
Playmaker Bettencourt confirmed Werder still has it “in their hands”.
However, in the second half, the reliance on Ducksch and Füllkrug cannot be overlooked, despite the now obvious field advantages. Or just because of it? The two strikers, known and notorious in Bremen as the “Ugly Birds”, have shared all of Werder’s goals among themselves in the previous eight matches, against Nuremberg their finish having suffered a meltdown. After the equalizer by substitute Mitchell Weiser (65), Werner said at least a “reasonable reaction” could be seen. It would have been enough to win.
Despite Toprak’s absence through injury and the third draw in a row, Bremen made sure to remind them of their “good starting position” at the end of the season. Playmaker Leonardo Bettencourt, for example, asserted that the matter is “still in your hands”. The second-division match schedule was drawn up by an unknown person, and the talented dramaturg was sure to work: Werder will go to Schalke 04 next week – and take over the top flight.