Werder Bremen hangs on for Bundesliga survival on away goals

HEIDENHEIM, Germany — Werder Bremen hung on to seal Bundesliga survival on away goals by drawing at second-division Heidenheim 2-2 in the second leg of their relegation-promotion playoff on Monday.

An own goal forced by American forward Josh Sargent in the third minute and Ludwig Augustinsson’s strike in the fourth minute of injury time were enough for Bremen to keep its place in Germany’s top 18-team division.

Tim Kleindienst equalized in the 85th minute to give the home side some hope of an upset before Fin Bartels set up Augustinsson on a counterattack to keep Bremen safe.

Kleindienst’s penalty in the eighth minute of injury time was too late for the home side. Heidenheim would have needed another goal to clinch its first promotion to the Bundesliga.

The playoff pitted the side that finished third from bottom in the top division, four-time champion Bremen, against the third-place finisher in the second division, Heidenheim.

There were no goals in the first leg between the sides in Bremen on Thursday.

Bremen made a good start and Sargent was poised to strike when Heidenheim defender Norman Theuerkauf’s attempted clearance ended up in his own net after two minutes of the the second leg.

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-Wurttemberg in southwestern Germany, has 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.

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