Bundesliga: Bremen ride their luck, Stuttgart win
NUREMBERG, November 7 (Bundesliga) - Werder Bremen needed just two chances to beat Nurnberg at the EasyCredit Stadium on Tuesday night to remain two points clear at the top of the Bundesliga table.
In a largely one-sided affair, goals from Torsten Frings after 32 minutes and Diego 10 minutes from time gave Werder a fortunate away victory.
The home side were scantly rewarded with only an Ivica Banovic penalty in stoppage time to show for their incessant efforts.
And defeat will be a bitter pill for Hans Meyer's side to swallow as they could, and perhaps should have been celebrating an easy, morale-boosting victory.
Nurnberg dominated from start to finish, and did not really give their opponents any clear-cut chances to score either, but two ruthless shots from distance decided the match in the visitors' favour.
After seeing their unbeaten run come to an end in Berlin on Saturday, Nurnberg were keen to get a positive result against Bremen.
They looked every bit the side which has been so hard to beat this season as they took the game to the league leaders from the very first minute.
It was one-way traffic as Meyer's men searched for the opening goal.
It almost arrived after 18 minutes when Dominic Reinhardt met Javier Pinola's corner in acres of space in the middle, but he placed his header wide of the far post.
2005 Bundesliga top goalscorer Marek Mintal has been unable to rediscover his form following a succession of serious injuries, and his nervousness in front of goal was once again evident as he misfired from eight yards when well-placed to score.
Frings was not so well-placed when he received the ball from Diego, but the Germany international provided an excellent finish to give Bremen the lead against the run of play.
Frings curled the ball to perfection into the bottom corner from 20 yards out with Raphael Schafer's dive not enough to reach the ball.
Robert Vittek missed the chance to grab a deserved equaliser before the break due to some excellent defending from Naldo, who raced back to put the Slovakian striker under pressure when he had only Tim Wiese to beat.
The sea of red continued to flow towards the Bremen goal in the second half, but still the hosts were unable to make their possession and pressure count with a goal.
Bremen, meanwhile, needed just their second shot of the night to double their advantage.
Diego's 25-yard free-kick curled just enough to clip the inside of the post and nestle in the back of Schafer's goal.
To sum up Nurnberg's night, Mintal wasted another gilt-edged chance with five minutes to go, opting to square the ball when he had just Wiese to beat.
The home side got their consolation through Banovic from the penalty spot in stoppage time, but it was too little too late for Meyer's side.
With 11 matches played, Werder are top with 23 points, followed by Stuttgart on 21.
Stuttgart were second best to Hamburg for much of their game at the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion but they took the lead in the 80th minute when Mario Gomez turned in his seventh goal of the season. Thomas Hitzlsperger added the second five minutes later.
Bayern Munich will climb back to within three points of Werder if they manage a win at home to bottom club Hanover 96 on Wednesday.
Schalke 04, who are also six points behind Werder with a game in hand, are away to Borussia Moenchengladbach in another Wednesday game.
Hamburg's defeat leaves them in real trouble. With 11 games played they remain in 15th place with just nine points.
Borussia Dortmund were forced to settle for a draw at home for the fifth time in six attempts as Alemannia Aachen ended their three-game losing streak with a gritty performance at Signal-Iduna-Park.
Alexander Frei had the best chance for the hosts, firing straight at goalkeeper Kristian Nicht with the goal at his mercy, while the visitors were left to rue a golden second-half opportunity when Cristian Fiel took an embarrassing fresh-air shot with the net yawning.
The result piles more pressure on Dortmund coach Bert van Marwijk, who, while unbeaten at home in six games, needs to quickly start converting draws into wins if he is to pacify the club's increasingly restless fans.