1. FC Heidenheim hearts have been broken as SV Werder Bremen came out on top only on away goals to secure their place in the Bundesliga for next season.
An early Norman Theuerkauf own goal looked set to be the deciding moment although there would be late drama to leave Heidenheim devastated.
Tim Kleindienst levelled on the night, and then scored from the spot beyond the allotted five added minutes after Ludwig Augustinsson had restored Bremen’s lead.
The ‘Relegation’ is always cruel, and to lose on away goals made it seem even cruller for the side from Baden-Württemberg at the end of an excellent season.
Theuerkauf the unfortunate one after late change
Unfortunately there has to be a fall guy, and in his case it was Theuerkauf, who was at fault for both of the goals scored by Bremen. The experienced defender, set to start at left-back was shuffled into the central of defence at the last moment, when Timo Beermann was forced out after an injury in the warm-up.
He did used to be a centre-back but it’s not a familiar role for him these days, and he was caught out in an early onslaught from a Bremen determined to be more of a threat than they had been in Thursday’s dour 0-0 draw. A ball from Maximilian Eggestein clattered off Sargent, and inadvertently rebounded off the 33-year-old’s foot.
Then, as Heidenheim chased a winner in stoppage time, he was weak in competition with another veteran, Bremen’s Fin Bartels. He landed on the ground, and Bartels was left in all the space in the world to set up what was effectively the winner – despite the penalty that followed.
Heidenheim were left devastated at the end. But this is a club that is completely together. No one will blame Theuerkauf – it was just his luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, twice – and they will take it, like everything, in their stride. Another rebuilding job may be necessary in the summer, but their time will surely come again.
Heidenheim settle down after early Bremen charge
The two surprise starters from Thursday, Kevin Sessa and Maurice Multhaup, dropped out for Heidenheim with the more established pair of Robert Leipertz and Marc Schnatterer coming in. Jonas Föhrenbach replaced Beermann in the XI, taking Theuerkauf’s place on the left. The suspended Niklas Moisander, Philipp Bargfrede and Niclas Füllkrug dropped out for Bremen with Augustinsson, Kevin Vogt and Josh Sargent coming in.
Bremen barely got out of first gear in the first leg. They found fifth almost immediately here. They came at Heidenheim like an express train and the pressure quickly told. Building out from the back. Eggestein found Sargent, and his ball inadvertently went off Theuerkauf and flew into the back of the net.
With the away goals rule, Heidenheim already needed two, but they could barely get the ball. Milot Rashica almost got the second soon after, denied only by a superb Kevin Müller save that put his shot over the bar, before the goalkeeper blocked off Davy Klaassen at the post.
The game settled down after that, perhaps helped with Heidenheim dropping back into the shape they had taken in the first leg, with a back three and Schnatterer (rather than Multhaup as on Thursday) as right wing-back. The Heidenheim icon put in some decent balls as they got their confidence back, without finding a team mate in the box.
Whilst most watching at home were concentrating on the chorus of instruments from the support staff in the stands, each side had a further chance before the break. Sargent didn’t come close to beating Müller, however, whilst Föhrenbach blasted wide after a good ball from Niklas Dorsch. He was offside anyway.
Heidenheim battle back in vein
Frank Schmidt made two changes at the break, bringing on Stefan Schimmer and David Otto for Denis Thomalla and Schnatterer. They made an instant impact. Schimmer immediately tested Jiří Pavlenka from outside the box, the Bremen keeper doing well to turn it wide. From the corner, Sebastian Griesbeck headed across goal with the ball passing inches by the feet of Kleindienst. Otto’s contribution followed soon after, heading wide in space a Marnon Busch cross.
The early pressure woke Bremen up as they it was then they who launched attack after attack. Yuya Osako was denied by the superb Busch, before Patrick Mainka blocked off Sargent. Müller then used his feet to keep out an effort from Augustinsson, before stopping Sargent after the American had ran into positon to shoot.
Heidenheim kept battling but it wasn’t going their way. Schmidt felt forced to remove their engine room, Dorsch, after he saw a yellow card, whilst Bremen were just blocking it out. They did have about 50 fans, perhaps family members, sneek into the ground, although they were soon removed. Klaassen came close to finishing it, with his curler going just over.
Then, suddenly, Heidenheim had hope. With Bremen pushed further and further back under pressure, substitute Tobias Mohr, from nowhere, rattled the cross far from outside the box with his left foot. The rebound fell straight to the foot of Kleindienst, and Pavlenka was beaten.
Suddenly they needed one more goal. They kept pushing but in the end were caught out at the back. Fin Bartels wrestled his way past a hapless Theuerkauf, and couldn’t believe his luck as he was left with just Müller to beat. Augustinsson joined him tough, he squared him up, and the Swede finished it off.
Heidenheim won a late penalty, Theodor Gebre Selassie fouling Mohr, but the whistle went moments after Kleindienst converted, making it all seem rather unworthwhile. A bitter end, but their time will come again.
Heidenheim: Müller; Busch (Multhuap 78‘), Mainka, Theuerkauf, Föhrenbach; Griesbeck, Dorsch (Sessa 67‘); Schnatterer (Otto HT), Leipertz (Mohr 67‘); Thomalla (Schimmer HT), Kleindienst.
Bremen: Pavlenka; Veljkovic (Langkamp 68‘), Vogt, Friedl; Gebre Selassie, Klaassen, Eggestein, Augustinsson; Osako (Bartels 68‘); Rashica (Füllkrug 80‘), Sargent (Groß 88‘).
Goals: Kleindienst (85‘, 90+7‘ P); Theuerkauf (3‘ OG), Augustinsson (90+4‘).
Referee: Felix Brych.