Arnautovic scores and Hart debuts but Werder win Betway Cup
On-loan Premier League striker Yuning Zhang scored the vital goal as Werder Bremen again edged West Ham United to lift the Betway Cup.
Zhang, who has joined the Bundesliga club from West Bromwich Albion, struck the vital goal with just nine minutes remaining to secure Werder a 3-2 aggregate win in the German town of Lohne.
Earlier, goals from full debutant Marko Arnautovic and Toni Martinez had dragged Slaven Bilic’s side back from two goals down after Luca Caldirola’s powerful header had doubled Bremen’s aggregate advantage on 15 minutes.
However, just when it looked like the Betway Cup might be decided by a penalty shootout, Swedish wing-back Ludwig Augustinsson cut the ball back and Zhang expertly steered his finish beyond the grasp of Joe Hart.
Having lost Friday’s first leg 1-0 in Schneverdingen, Slaven Bilic’s side dominated almost the entire opening half, but fell behind to Italian defender Caldirola’s towering header.
Eleven minutes later, summer signing Arnautovic reacted quickest to poke Arthur Masuaku’s deflected cross past Czech goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka, with the combinations between the summer signing and French full-back a highlight of West Ham’s performance.
The Austrian’s goal was no more than the Premier League side deserved for their showing in front of a colourful crowd at the Heinz-Dettmer-Stadion.
Indeed, debutant Hart touched the ball just FOUR times in the opening period – twice to clear up field and once to pick the ball out of the net after Caldirola nodded Florian Kainz’s disputed free-kick into the top corner.
That proved to be Bremen’s only goal attempt in the entire half, with West Ham, in contrast, unleashing four shots, including Arnautovic’s leveller.
The former Stoke City man had already gone close, unleashing a rasping angled drive that Pavlenka could only palm high into the air. Robert Snodgrass reacted quickest, but the angle was tight and he headed the ball into the side netting.
The improved display was perhaps to be expected when you consider Bilic named a team including eight senior internationals, including the experienced Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Jose Fonte, Angelo Ogbonna and Andre Ayew.
Werder also named a more experienced starting XI, with four of the team which started at Borussia Dortmund on the final day of the last Bundesliga season included – Danish midfielder Thomas Delaney, Germany internationals Max Kruse and Fin Bartels and Senegal centre-half Ludovic Sane – alongside recent arrivals Pavlenka, Augustinsson and Zhang.
Bremen boss Alexander Nouri left his seniors on for the entire 90 minutes, but Bilic again opted to make multiple changes on the hour-mark, and it was one of his substitutes who put the Hammers ahead on the day.
Ayew found himself in space wide on the left touchline before digging out a curling cross the Martinez expertly guided into the far corner with a well-placed header.
With a number of youngsters now on the pitch, West Ham continued to hold their own, with Edimilson Fernandes rattling the base of the post with a well-struck long-range drive, only for Zhang to have the final say.
Indeed, the Hammers finished strongly and had an Ayew goal disallowed before the exciting Nathan Holland tested Pavlenka with his team’s final shot of the tie.
So, two years after winning the Betway Cup with a 2-1 win at the Boleyn Ground, Werder repeated the feat with another narrow victory on home soil.
Werder Bremen: Pavlenka, Caldirola, Sane, Bauer, Augustinsson, Delaney, M.Eggestein, Bartels, Kainz, Kruse, Zhang
West Ham United: Hart, Zabaleta (Byram 60), Fonte (Burke 60), Ogbonna (Collins 60), Masuaku (Cresswell 60), Obiang © (Rice 60), Cullen (Makasi 60), Fernandes (Holland 60), Arnautovic, Snodgrass (Martinez 60), Ayew
Sub not used: Adrian (GK)