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Bremen end season on high with Cup final victory
BERLIN (Reuters) - Werder Bremen beat Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 on Saturday to win the German Cup for the sixth time and grab the last remaining European spot for next season.
Midfielder Mesut Ozil struck in the second half with a deflected drive to end Bremen's rollercoaster season on a high at Berlin's Olympiastadion.
The win means Bremen, who lost the UEFA Cup final to Shakhtar Donetsk and finished 10th in the Bundesliga, will play in next season's UEFA Cup successor, the Europa League.
"We showed will and we showed commitment," Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf told reporters. "Playing like that in the 55th competitive match this season is something."
Bremen were dominant throughout with Brazilian Diego, in his final appearance before joining Juventus, commanding the midfield and setting up Ozil for the winner with a clever through ball.
"We were under great pressure following the UEFA Cup final defeat," midfielder Torsten Frings told ARD television. "But we played a great game, we won and qualified for Europe next season."
Patrick Helmes could have put Leverkusen in the lead against the run of play midway through the first half but he misfired after Renato Augusto had raced down the right and crossed for the unmarked striker.
Leverkusen had few chances after that, with Bremen central defender Naldo reigning supreme.
Bremen, far hungrier to salvage some silverware from a frustrating season, came close twice just before the break.
Hugo Almeida sent his header a fraction wide before Naldo headed on a Diego cross to force a reflex save from Rene Adler.
They managed to break the deadlock when Ozil raced down the left to meet a pin-point Diego pass and score with a shot that took a slight deflection off defender Manuel Friedrich.
Leverkusen staged a late fightback with Stefan Kiessling just failing to connect with several half-chances in the penalty area.
"We are bitterly disappointed," Leverkusen coach Bruno Labbadia said. "We played good football at times but just could not score."
"A title would have done us good," added Labbadia, who refused to say whether he would stay on at the club.
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