Bayern Munich attacker Serge Gnabry hit a hat-trick and Leon Goretzka struck twice as Germany defeated Northern Ireland 6-1 in their final match of 2019, a win that ensured them top spot in the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying Group C standings.
Germany 6-1 Northern Ireland
Goals: 0-1 Smith (7’), 1-1 Gnabry (19’), 2-1 Goretzka (43’), 3-1 Gnabry (47’), 4-1 Gnabry (60’), 5-1 Goretzka (73’), 6-1 Brandt (90+1’)
The hosts dominated the ball in the opening exchanges at Eintracht Frankfurt’s Commerzbank-Arena, but fell behind against the run of play when Michael Smith’s stunning first-time strike from the edge of the box left Marc-Andre ter Stegen no chance. Unfazed, Die Mannschaft continued to plug away, with Gnabry denied by a brilliant save from Bailey Peacock-Farrell before Julian Brandt hit the post as Joachim Löw’s men served notice of their intent. It was not long before parity was restored, Gnabry shooting on the turn after collecting Jonas Hector’s pull-back from the left. The Cologne left-back played a big role in Germany’s next goal too, again charging down the left before cutting the ball into the middle where Goretzka just beat his marker to prod the ball in off the post just before half-time.
The hosts’ superiority continued into the second period and Gnabry soon added his second when he lashed in from Lukas Klostermann’s pass. Toni Kroos had a long-range shot tipped just around the post as Germany refused to ease off, and Gnabry completed his hat-trick on the hour-mark after shrugging off Tom Flanagan’s challenge to collect Brandt’s pass and slot in from a tight angle. The outcome was already assured, but Goretzka added gloss to the scoreline with a low drive from the edge of the box as the match entered the closing stages. Brandt then crowned a superb individual and team performance late on with a neat finish from Kroos’ through-ball as Germany bowed out of 2019 in style.
- Gnabry now has 13 international goals in just 13 appearances. The Bayern attacker was Germany's top scorer in qualifying with eight goals and one assist in seven games.
- All four of Goretka’s goals in qualifying have come at home. The Bayern midfielder also got the second goal in Saturday’s 4-0 win over Belarus.
- Hector, now third-choice left-back behind Nico Schulz and Marcel Halstenberg, provided the assists for Gnabry’s and Goretzka’s first goals.
- Hertha Berlin centre-back Niklas Stark made his first senior Germany appearance here. There are seven other players in the squad with fewer than 10 caps.
- Gnabry's Bayern clubmate Kimmich is the only player to have started in all 22 of Germany's matches since the start of 2018.
- Germany have won each of their last nine meetings with Northern Ireland, with their last defeat to Tuesday's visitors coming way back in 1983.
Germany: ter Stegen - Klostermann (Stark 65'), Tah, Can, Hector - Gündogan, Kimmich, Kroos (c) - Goretzka (Serdar 73'), Gnabry (Amiri 80'), Brandt
Unused subs: Leno, Neuer, Ginter, Koch, Schulz, Rudy, Werner
Out: Draxler (match fitness), Halstenberg (thigh), Havertz (thigh), Kehrer (foot), Reus (ankle), Rüdiger (groin), Sane (knee), Süle (knee), Trapp (shoulder)
Coach: Joachim Löw
Northern Ireland: Peacock-Farrell - Smith, Cathcart, Flanagan, Ferguson - Davis (c), C. Evans (Mclaughlin 65'), Saville - McNair (Boyce 77') - Thompson, Magennis (Lavery 83')
Unused subs: Carson, McGovern, Brown, Donnely, Dallas, Kennedy, Whyte, McGinn, Lafferty
Out: Grigg (ill), Jones (knee), Lewis (knee), Washington (hamstring)
Coach: Michael O'Neill
Watch: The inexorable rise of Serge Gnabry
As it happened
FULL-TIME! GERMANY 6-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
Four second half goals make it a very good night for Germany. The lethal Serge Gnabry was the star of the show with his hat-trick, with Leon Goretzka's double and Julian Brandt adding to the scoreline. It's easy to forget that the home side were behind after only seven minutes, but they stormed back to go to their 13th European Championship finals as Group C winners ahead of the Netherlands.
GOAL! 90+1' GERMANY 6-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
Brandt is played through down the left, takes on his man, and rounds things off with a lovely stretched finish.
86' GERMANY 5-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
The Netherlands now lead 4-0 at home to Estonia in the other game in this group tonight thanks to a Gini Wijnaldum hat-trick. That result matters little now, though, because Germany will finish as group winners on 21 points from eight games. The Dutch will be two further back, while Northern Ireland are set to finish third on 13 points ahead of their Euro 2020 play-off in March.
80' GERMANY 5-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
The crowd rise to salute Gnabry as he's given a breather. Nadiem Amiri of Hoffenheim is on in his stead.
74' GERMANY 5-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
There'll be no hat-trick for Goretzka, as he's taken off to be replaced by Schalke's Suat Serdar. Serdar made his debut in last month's friendly against Argentina. There's a Germany debut for Hertha Berlin's Niklas Stark too, who has come on for Klostermann.
GOAL! 73' GERMANY 5-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
Goretza thumps home from just outside the area! A double for the Bayern man.
67' GERMANY 4-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
Northern Ireland are tiring now, and Brandt and Co. are enjoying themselves. The Dortmund attacker raids into the visiting half and sets up Goretzka, but his shot from outside the area drifts just wide.
60' GERMANY 4-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
Gnabry hat-trick! This is quite the show from the Bayern man. Played in by Brandt, the 24-year-old brilliantly holds off the challenge of Tom Flanagan before calmly slotting past Peacock-Farrell from close range.
57' GERMANY 3-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
Hector's booming cross from the left wing is latched on to by Gnabry, but the former Arsenal attacker sees his header tail just wide.
54' GERMANY 3-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
Kroos is playing like a quarterback and another gorgeous pass from the former Bayern Munich midfielder releases Klostermann again. The Leipzig right-back's first shot is blocked before he volleys into the sidenetting with his second effort. Germany have had an incredible 90 per cent of the ball since the resumption.
52' GERMANY 3-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
Kroos has another go from range, and this one draws a diving save from Peacock-Farrell.
GOAL! 47' GERMANY 3-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
Gnabry is unstoppable! Klostermann gets played in on the right and cuts it back for the Bayern attacker. He takes a touch to tee himself up, then hammers the ball into the corner for his 12th goal in 13 games for Germany.
SECOND HALF! GERMANY 2-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
We're back underway. Can Germany push on to make sure of top spot?
HALF-TIME! GERMANY 2-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
Brandt gets another shot on target before the end as the home side finish strongly. There was a surprise start when Smith fired in a brilliant goal for the visitors, but the in-form Gnabry replied with a super finish of his own. It looked like Northern Ireland might make it to half-time with no further damage, but Goretzka scrambled home his third goal in qualifying. He got the second goal in the win over Belarus on Saturday, too, while Cologne defender Hector will be happy after picking up two assists tonight.
GOAL! 43' GERMANY 2-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
Just as I say that, Germany go in front! The ball is fired out to the impressive Hector, and his cross from the left is missed by Gnabry. Leon Goretzka is next line though and he shows great determination to bundle the ball home.
42' GERMANY 1-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
Kroos tries his luck from distance. Struck well, but at a comfortable catching height. The pace has dropped considerably after a frantic opening 20 minutes.
36' GERMANY 1-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
As they've demonstrated throughout this group, Northern Ireland are a tough nut to crack. Germany having to be patient in possession here as they wait for another opening.
29' GERMANY 1-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
The home side have had 80 per cent of the ball so far, but Northern Ireland have just had a dangerous spell in German territory.
24' GERMANY 1-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
Gnabry gets another shot towards goal but it's an easy save time this time as Germany continue to dominate. The Netherlands are leading 2-0 at home to Estonia in the night's other group game, and as it stands the Dutch top the group.
GOAL! 19' GERMANY 1-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
That's a brilliant finish from Gnabry! Hector is in down the left again and when he cuts the ball back, Gnabry turns and smashes the ball into the top corner for his sixth goal in qualifying.
18' GERMANY 0-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
Almost an own goal for Northern Ireland as Craig Cathcart turn's Hector's cutback goalwards. Peacock-Farrell is able to save, though.
14' GERMANY 0-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
Hector lays the ball back for Julian Brandt but his attempted curler to the top corner is headed behind. Northern Ireland defend the corner comfortably.
12' GERMANY 0-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
All happening as Kimmich makes a great block at the other end.
POST! 11' GERMANY 0-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
Kroos plays in Hector on the left of the area and his partially blocked cross is headed towards the far corner by Ilkay Gündogan... but the ball comes back off the woodwork!
CHANCE! 10' GERMANY 0-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
Kroos plays a great ball through to Gnabry in the area, but visiting keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell spreads himself to make a great save.
GOAL! 7' GERMANY 0-1 NORTHERN IRELAND
Northern Ireland lead! And what a strike it was. Germany head clear to outside of the area, where Michael Smith catches the ball beautifully and smashes a low, unstoppable shot into the corner of ter Stegen's goal.
4' GERMANY 0-0 NORTHERN IRELAND
Germany dominating possession, as you would expect, although they have yet to create much. Around 2,500 visiting fans are adding to the party atmosphere in Frankfurt.
KICK-OFF! GERMANY 0-0 NORTHERN IRELAND
Tonight Serge Gnabry will get the chance to add to his impressive tally of five goals in six qualifying matches. The Bayern midfielder is the home side's leading scorer in Group C, with Toni Kroos on three after his double in Saturday's 4-0 win over Belarus.
KIMMICH THE CONSTANT
Joshua Kimmich can play on the right or in midfield but, wherever he plays, he's usually in the line-up. The Bayern star is the only player to have featured in all of Germany's matches since the start of 2018.
Germany are already assured of a place at the Euro 2020 finals, but a win tonight will make absolutely sure that they both top their qualifying group and earn top seeding at next year's tournament. Visitors Northern Ireland can no longer qualify directly, and will instead use this evening's game as preparation for a Euro 2020 play-off in March.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen starts in goal, as Löw had announced before the game, while there is a completely new centre-back pairing in Jonathan Tah and Emre Can, who replace Matthias Ginter and Robin Koch. Cologne captain Jonas Hector begins at left-back in place of Nico Schulz in what is almost a completely revamped backline - only right-back Lukas Klostermann kept his place. Up front Serge Gnabry leads the line, with Timo Werner on the bench.
HELLO AND WELCOME!
Eintracht Frankfurt's home provides the venue for today's match, Germany's last of the calendar year. As such they will be eager to go out on a high note in front of their own fans, especially as victory would ensure them top spot in Group C.