Almeida header fires Bremen

Werder Bremen striker Hugo Almeida equalised seven minutes from time to give his side a valuable point from their 2-2 draw at Panathinaikos in Wednesday night's UEFA Champions League clash.

Almeida was left unmarked in the Greek penalty area with time running out and rose highest to smash his header home and give Bremen their third draw in Group B to keep alive their hopes of reaching the first knock-out phase.

With Anorthosis Famagusta going down 1-0 at Group B leaders Inter Milan on Wednesday night, Bremen are now third on three points, just one behind the Cypriot side with three games remaining.

Headers by Panathinaikos striker Evangelos Mantzios either side of half-time had looked like giving the Greek Cup holders their first Champions League points of the season before Portugal striker Almeida struck.

Werder Bremen were without influential trio goalkeeper Tim Wiese, striker Daniel Jansen and midfielder Aaron Hunt in Athens, but managed to take the lead through Germany defender Per Mertesacker on 29 minutes.

Midfielder Mesut Oezil floated in a cross from the left and Mertesacker managed to escape the attention of referee Michael Riley when the ball hit his arm before he slammed the ball into the back of the net from close range.

But the home side equalised seven minutes later when Brazilian defender Gabriel crossed the ball in and Greek striker Mantzios floated his header over Bremen's stand-in goalkeeper Christian Vander.

It finished 1-1 at the break, but the home side took the lead when Bremen's Oezil cleared the ball off the line only for Mantzios to again loop his header over Vander's reach and into the net on 68 minutes.

And the Bremen shot-stopper was beaten again moments later when Panathinaikos striker Dimitrios Salpingidis smashed in a long-range shot past the diving goalkeeper, but his shot hit the crossbar and Mertesacker cleared.

Almeida rose to meet substitute defender Sebastian Boenisch's cross on 83 minutes and squandered a golden chance to win the game deep into injury time.

Panathinaikos and Bremen will meet again at Bremen's Weserstadion on 4 November in the return leg.