BREMEN, February 17 (Bundesliga) - Werder Bremen continued their struggles in the German Bundesliga, losing at home against northen rivals Hamburg to drop seven points behind leaders Schalke.
Rafael van der Vaart converted a penalty in the 42nd minute and delivered the clincher three minutes from time to give Hamburg their second straight victory under new coach Huub Stevens after just one win in their first 20 games.
The win leaves Hamburg just one point from a non-relegation zone spot.
Bremen meanwhile suffered their third straight defeat after losses to Schalke and Stuttgart, who have now leapfrogged them into second place.
Thomas Schaaf's team appeared to have gained some much-needed confidence on Wednesday, beating Ajax 3-0 in the UEFA Cup. But Stevens' influence proved too much as Hamburg won for the first time in Bremen since February 2002.
Bremen dominated the first 15 minutes but couldn't produce a real chances. And the match turned rather unentertaining with neither team coming dangerously out of the midfield.
Werder playmaker Diego didn't help his team's cause twice on 32 minutes offering up very poor crosses into the box which were easily cleared.
Miroslav Klose, who was closely marked the entire first half, finally found enough space for a header on 35 minutes but his attempt went well wide.
Schaaf's team missed two more chances on 38 minutes as Markus Rosenberg didn't connect cleanly from six yards out and Diego's rebound was pulled just off target.
And Bremen were punished for not working better offensively as Hamburg pulled ahead three minutes before the break with their first chance of the first half.
Daniel Jensen took down David Jarolim in the box and Van der Vaart stepped up and blasted his left footer into the lower left corner as Wiese guessed wrong.
Hamburg continued to stand well in the defence but refused to venture too often past midfield up to the hour mark.
Klose nearly struck again, as he headed just left of goal Frings free kick six minutes later.
Van der Vaart's creativity brought a top Hamburg chance at the 71-minute mark.
The Dutch star heeled Sorin's pass over his own head and he beat Wiese again but his volley sailed just left of goal.
Hamburg found the net 16 minutes from time with Juan Pablo Sorin's header but the Argentinian was ruled off-sides
Schaaf ordered his team to push forward but Bremen couldn't stop the determined Van der Vaart.
The Hamburg captain gathered Nigel de Jong's long high ball forward against Peter Niemeyer and beat Wiese again with a left-footed shot into the near corner.