Hamburg went into the match in Bremen's Weser-Stadium determined to make up for last week's disappointment in the German Cup semi-final, when Bremen beat Hamburg on penalties. And the determination paid off, when, in the 28th minute, Hamburg midfielder Piotr Trochowski headed a Guy Demel cross into the back of the net – the ball sailing over the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Tim Wiese.
"Even though I am not very tall, I went up wanting to put the ball into the back of the net," Trochowski said afterwards.
Hamburg coach Martin Jol said his team did well in the first half, and said they're in a good position going into the second leg of the semi-finals.
"We proved that we can overcome a setback like the penalty shoot-out loss … a week ago."
But Jol also said his players should have scored again in the second half of Thursday's game.
"Bremen are a very dangerous team and they know how to score goals," he said.
Hamburg only has to avoid defeat in next week's second leg to qualify for the May 20 UEFA Cup final in Istanbul.
Bremen still optimistic
Bremen were certainly more aggressive after half time but – as midfielder Torsten Frings later lamented – the side just couldn't come home with the goods.
"We conceded a stupid goal after a mistake and then failed to make the most of our many chances," Frings said, "but everything is still open for the return leg and nothing is lost." .
Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf is also still optimistic, despite Thursday night's setback. "It is just one goal and there are of course still possibilities for the second match."
Draw for Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kiev
In an all-Ukrainian first leg, Shakhtar Donetsk drew 1-1 at Dynamo Kiev on Thursday.
The home side gained the upper hand in the 22nd minute, when Olexandr Aliyev's free kick was deflected into his own net by Dmytro Chygrynskiy.
But Donetsk drew level in the 68th minute; Brazilian Fernandinho slotted home a cross from countryman Jadson.
Kiev coach Yuri Semin was disappointed after the match.
"The game was very difficult, nervy and our players failed to stand the pressure," he said. "They didn't play their best."
His Donetsk counterpart Mircea Lucescu said the game had been difficult, but said he was satisfied with the result.
"But it's only the first part," he said. "The second leg may be even harder because at home you have to focus on other things."
Both return legs take place on May 7.