Werder Bremen slip towards drop as teams take knee for Floyd protests

Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg players kneel at the centre circle to send a signal against racism on Sunday. (AP pic)

BERLIN:¬†Werder Bremen’s relegation fears increased on Sunday following a 1-0 home defeat by Wolfsburg that saw a renewed show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.

Wout Weghorst headed home the decisive goal eight minutes before the end to push Wolfsburg back up to sixth place and the Europa League spots.

The Dutch international’s 12th league goal of the season came just seconds after Xaver Schlager crashed a shot off the bar and leaves Werder, the team with the most seasons in the Bundesliga, staring at the drop.

With four matches left Florian Kohfeldt’s side are second-from-bottom, six points from safety and three from the relegation playoff place following back-to-back home defeats.

Werder are the league’s lowest scorers with 30 goals and have won just once at home all season, losing 11 times. Their performance on Sunday highlighted the problems that could see them down come the end of the season.

They travel to bottom side Paderborn next weekend in a match that could be decisive for their survival, with league leaders Bayern Munich the following weekend and relegation rivals Mainz, who are just outside the drop zone and won 2-0 at Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, three days later.

“It is very disappointing, but everything is still possible. We will give everything until the end,” said Werder captain Niklas Moisander to DAZN.

The match began after both starting elevens gathered round the centre circle at the Weser Stadium before dropping to one knee, echoing a gesture made by Borussia Dortmund and Hertha Berlin players and Mainz midfielder Pierre Kunde Malong on Saturday.

Union Berlin and Schalke players then did the same ahead of their own match on Sunday, which kicked off shortly after Wolfsburg’s win.

With protests against police brutality and for racial equality taking place around the world on Sunday, the Bundesliga has become a stage for tributes to Floyd, a black American man who died last month at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

On Saturday, Dortmund players also wore messages on their T-shirts during their warm-up in honour of Floyd.

Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hakimi wore the messages “no justice, no peace”, while midfielders Axel Witsel and Emre Can’s T-shirts displayed the words “black”, “white”, “yellow” and “red” crossed out, with the word “human” below.

Prior to their 4-2 win at Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday, Bayern Munich players warmed up in T-shirts bearing both the Black Lives Matter hashtag and the slogan of the club’s official “Reds Against Racism” campaign.

Union Berlin’s Nigerian striker Anthony Ujah wrote in an article for German daily FAZ that he was “proud” of the Bundesliga players who staged on-pitch protests, and pledged to do the same if he scores against Schalke on Sunday.