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Markus Rosenberg paid tribute to the character of his team-mates after his goal at UC Sampdoria forced extra time and ultimately propelled SV Werder Bremen toward the UEFA Champions League group stage.
After Antonio Cassano made it 3-0 on the night in the 85th minute Bremen's 3-1 first leg win looked redundant, but 27-year-old Rosenberg came to the rescue with a 20-metre strike in stoppage time. That goal forced an extra 30 minutes at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa, Claudio Pizarro hitting what proved to be the winner in the 100th minute as Bremen went through 5-4 on aggregate.
"We played really well," Rosenberg told UEFA.com. "The atmosphere here was intimidating and after their two early goals the game became really difficult, but we showed great spirit to come back at the end and fortunately I got a late goal to make it 3-1. From then on we improved and we were by far the stronger side in extra time."
The performance of Marko Marin was particularly effective in the additional half-hour as the 21-year-old hit the bar in the 93rd minute and then the post in the closing seconds but the winger, who also set up Pizarro for his match-winning strike, was just happy to be through to the UEFA Champions League proper. "I could have hit the crossbar four times, but we are through and that is all that matters," he said.
Swedish international Rosenberg feels the experience gleaned over years in European competition – including reaching the last UEFA Cup final in 2009 – can take Bremen a long way. "We've been competing in the Champions League for years and we know it'll be tough, but we've got a very good chance of getting through the group stage," he said. "This result also proves that the Bundesliga is a good league. Bayern reached the final last season and our win tonight leaves three German teams in the Champions League. Things are looking up for German football."
For Sampdoria, meanwhile, it was a night of broken dreams. "We had the Champions League in our grasp and unfortunately it went horribly wrong," said Franco Semioli, who set up Cassano for what seemed to be the decisive strike. "It was an unlucky night.
"We're still feeling a lot of regret right now," the midfielder added. "It was a sucker punch none of us saw coming but we will respond in the right way when the Serie A season starts this weekend; we have to. We have to roll our sleeves up because this season will be even harder than last and we need to prove ourselves all over again."