Giampualo Pazzini scored in the first half to give Sampdoria a 1-0 lead at the Weser Stadium only to have the linesman deny the goal. Flag raised, the Italian international had been judged offside - a fair call, though Pazzini would ultimately get a measure of redemption after a trying day for Italy's fourth-place finishers.
Though Sampdoria had taken their hosts into half-time drawn nil-nil, a beautiful curler from Clemens Fritz, a penalty converted by Torsten Frings, and a Claudio Pizarro's finish to a beautiful movement had the German club up 3-0 through regulation time. With Sampdoria having played a man down since before Frings' goal, the tie looked nearly settled. A three goal advantage without having allowed an away goal would be difficult to give-back in Genoa.
Then a moment of shock sent the excitement back into the tie, with one of Reto Ziegler's knifing crosses finding Pazzini, whose header beat Tim Weise to pull Sampdoria within two. As important, Sampdoria had their away goal, meaning a 2-0 win next Tuesday will send them into group play.
Werder was understandably stunned at match's end, having dominated throughout. While a Sampdoria possession-less effectively kept the play in front of them in the first half (limiting Werder to long shots), the hosts were more ambitious in the second half and found they were able to move through Samp's formation. The 3-0 scoreline was neither unfair nor an exaggeration. Bremen looked like a team that should be in Champions League while Sampdoria looked like a squad that hadn't played a competitive match since May.
Now with 90 minutes under their belt and a week to prepare, Sampdoria getting a 2-0 win next Tuesday is not-so-far-fetched. Bremen is in undeniably good shape, but a flashing moment well into second half stoppage time has given Sampdoria life.
Sporting Braga (Portugal) 1, Sevilla (Spain) 0
Goals: 62' - Matheus (BRA)
Sevilla hit a post early and looked to carry momentum from this weekend's defeat of Barcelona into the match in Braga, but the Portugal runners-up showed the same defensive prowess that made them so successful last season, and with Matheus's second half header, Domingos Paciencia has a result with which he can work in next week's return leg. For a club with the skills and style of Braga, a 0-0 at the Sanchez Pizjuanis attainable. If Sevilla shows the same inconsistency that defined their 2009-10 (as they have in the last week), Spain could be without a fourth Champions League side.
Partizan (Serbia) 2, Anderlecht (Belgium) 2
Goals: 54' - Gillet (AND), 58' - Cléo (PAR), 64' - Lecjaks (og) (PAR), 66' - Juhász (AND)
One of the more remarkable finishes you will ever see, a beautiful left-footed goal by Jan Lecjaks into the upper-left-hand corner of his own net threatened to scupper Anderlecht's trip to Belgrade, but a quick response that completed a span of four goals in 13 minutes allowed the Juliper League champions to go back to Belgium with two away goals and a draw. Partizan had been hoping for more, though coach Aleksandar Stanojevic seemed to understand the task at hand. Pre-match the manager said his team would attack the Belgians despite the Partizan's underdog status, and while the Purple and White exhibited a talent advantage at various points in the match, Partizan acquitted themselves well.
Red Bull Salzburg (Austria) 2, Hapoel Tel Aviv (Israel) 3
Goals: 3' - Enyeama (HAP), 28' - Pokrivac (SAL), 44' - Sahar (HAP), 53' - Shechter (HAP), 67' - Wallner (SAL)
The day's most exciting match featured a number of "cracking" goals, the first of whichwas a sublimely executed penalty kick by Hapoel goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who put his shot high into the left side netting to put the Israeli club up 1-0. The matches next tally was the goal of the day, with Nikola Pokrivac's left-footed volley from 25 yards out curling onto the inside of Enyeama's right post, slamming in for an equalizer.
Sahar's powerful header put Hapoel up just before half, and a well-taken breakaway goal from Etey Shechter gave the Tel Aviv club their winning score. Roman Wallner gave Salzburg a second goal, but one year after going out 5-1 to an Israeli club at the same point in the competition, the Austrians may be experiencing de ja vu.
FC Basel (Switzerland) 1, Sheriff (Moldova) 0
Goals: 54' - Stocker (BAS)
In addition to Valentin Stocker's goal, Basel had an early Alexander Frei score called back and a penalty kick saved. They were clearly the better team and could have had one-or-two more goals. Instead, they go to Moldovan next Tuesday having given Sheriff a chance to prevent a tenth straight exit before group stage.