BERLIN — Werder Bremen overcame lower league side Heidenheim on the away-goal rule to stay in the first division, following the second leg in the German Bundesliga’s relegation playoff on Monday.

The “Green-Whites” caught a fairy-tale start on the road after breaking the deadlock with just three minutes played when Heidenheim’s Norman Theuerkauf deflected Joshua Sargent’s effort into the wrong goal.

Bremen increased the pressure and came close to doubling their advantage, but neither Milot Rashica nor Davy Klaassen was able to extend the lead in the ninth minute.

Second division side Heidenheim needed some time to gain a foothold into the clash, but for all that, they lacked in ideas to combine their way into Bremen’s danger zone.

After the restart, Heidenheim came out with their guns blazing as substitute Stefan Schimmer tested Bremen goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka in quick succession.

The hosts remained on the front foot and created another promising opportunity moments later when joker David Otto nodded just wide from a promising position.

Bremen stood firm and responded well through Ludwig Augustinsson and Sargent, who failed to increase the advantage with only Heidenheim custodian Kevin Muller to beat at the hour mark.

Heidenheim needed to score as Bremen marked a costly away goal, but still, the hosts couldn’t find a gap in Bremen’s well-positioned defense.

The hosts threw every man up front, and their all-or-nothing strategy paid off in the closing period as Tim Kleindienst benefitted on a rebound to slot home the equalizer with five minutes to the final whistle.

Bremen caught the hosts flat-footed in the dying minutes of the game as Fin Bartels shrugged off two defenders and squared the ball to Augustinsson, who made no mistake to tap home 2-1 into the empty goal and to seal the deal for another season in Germany’s top flight.

Heidenheim kept it bowling, but their 2-2 leveler through Kleindienst following a penalty in the injury time remained futile.

“I am glad and delighted that we have survived. We stay in the first division, and that is the most important news. We played a poor season, but we finished it off in a good way,” Bremen head coach Florian Kohfeldt said. 

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