Werder philosophical after Euro near miss

December 6, 2006

MUNICH, Dec 6 (Reuters) - It would be easy to blame Werder Bremen's Champions League exit on a 20-minute bout of stage fright at the Nou Camp.

In truth, it was back in September when Werder missed their best chance to set up a place in the last 16, when they let Barca off the hook in their match at the Weserstadion.

Getting a point from Tuesday's game was always going to be next to impossible, with the Catalans back in the form that took them to a Spanish league and European Cup double last season.

With Ronaldinho inspired they moved 2-0 ahead by the 20th minute, with an outrageous free kick from the Brazilian and an Eidur Gudjohnsen strike, and further goals might easily have followed.

It was a different story when the two sides met in Germany. Then, Ronaldinho was still suffering from his post-World Cup lethargy and he contributed next to nothing to the game.

Bremen took the lead through a Carles Puyol own goal and were in control until the closing 10 minutes, when they settled back to defend their lead and suffered the agony of a Lionel Messi equaliser in the 89th minute.

It was another case of Werder failing to finish off a top European side, after their last-gasp exit to Juventus in the second round last season.

'We have to learn from this,' said defender Per Mertesacker. 'We did so well but couldn't find the knock-out blow.'

Instead of reaching the knockout phase for the third successive year they will go into the UEFA Cup but despite that failure manager Klaus Allofs sees this year's run as a step forward.

'All in all I'm highly satisfied with the campaign,' Allofs told reporters. 'I think this was in fact our strongest run in the competition to date.

'Very few people believed we could take so many points from this group.'