RB Leipzig defender Marcel Halstenberg and Bayern Munich’s Serge Gnabry both scored as Germany beat Northern Ireland 2-0 at Windsor Park to move top of Group C in UEFA European Championship qualifying.
Northern Ireland 0-2 Germany
Goals: 0-1 Halstenberg (48’), 0-2 Gnabry (90’+3)
The 2014 world champions had to withstand an early onslaught from the Northern Irish, and it took an excellent Manuel Neuer save to deny striker Conor Washington one-on-one with just seven minutes on the clock. Germany soon found their feet in Belfast, though, and began to put the hosts under pressure with a sustained string of attacks, including a Joshua Kimmich half-volley and a Timo Werner drive that was blocked from close range. Germany (and potentially Borussia Mönchengladbach) were dealt a blow shortly before the break when centre-back Matthias Ginter was forced off with a rib injury. Replacement Jonathan Tah was quickly into the action to rescue the visitors, though, by preventing Washington from tapping in after Neuer had only parried a low cross. Seconds later and Werner was denied by Northern Ireland goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
Germany weren’t to be held after the break when Lukas Klostermann’s cross from the right was flicked on by the head of Julian Brandt, bouncing perfectly for Halstenberg to smash home for his first Germany goal. The visitors continued to push for a second with Klostermann firing a rebound wide and Gnabry slotting past the post after good interplay with Marco Reus and Brandt. Despite a Paddy McNair appeal for a penalty that was waved away, Germany continued to exert control on the game and Gnabry slotted home from a Kai Havertz pass deep in injury time to close out the win and move top of the group, ahead of Northern Ireland on goal difference after five matches.
- This was the first time a Germany team had started with three players from RB Leipzig, the current Bundesliga leaders.
- Halstenberg’s goal was his first on his fourth senior Germany appearance. The left-back has one in three Bundesliga games for Leipzig this season.
- Germany have won 12 of their 18 meetings with Northern Ireland (four draws, two defeats).
- Gnabry has scored nine goals in his 10 international appearances for Germany.
- This was Northern Ireland’s first defeat in qualifying for Euro 2020.
- Northern Ireland’s last win over Germany was a 1-0 victory in November 1983.
Northern Ireland: Peacock-Farrell – Dallas, Cathcart, J. Evans, Lewis – McNair, S. Davis (c), Saville (Magennis 70’) – C. Evans, Washington (Lavery 82’), McGinn (Whyte 59’)
Unused subs: McGovern, Carson, McLaughlin, Flanagan, Ferguson, Thompson, Donnelly, Boyce, Lafferty
Coach: Michael O’Neill
Germany: Neuer (c) – Klostermann, Ginter (Tah 40’), Süle, Halstenberg - Kimmich, Kroos – Gnabry, Reus (Can 85’), Brandt – Werner (Havertz 68’)
Unused subs: Leno, ter Stegen, Stark, Hector, Waldschmidt
Out: Gündogan (illness), Schulz (foot)
Coach: Joachim Löw
As it happened
Germany move to the top of Group C with the win and keep their EURO 2020 destiny in their own hands.
90+2' GOAL!! NORTHERN IRELAND 0-2 GERMANY
Gnabry is played in behind the home defence, and there was only ever going to be one outcome...he slips it past Peacock-Farrell from a tight angle...that's nine goals in ten internationals for him.
We're into the first of the three minutes to be added on.
Kimmich does well to win the ball back high up the pitch...he finds Can just outside the area. The substitute turns and fires goalwards...ricochets off a green-shirted defender and behind for a corner.
88' EIGHT UP?
Germany are so close to their eighth successive win over Northern Ireland...
84' CHANCE FOR A SECOND
Reus finds Havertz in the middle, but the Leverkusen youngster's first touch doesn't allow him to get a shot away quickly, and the chance goes abegging.
81' POSSESSION GAME
Germany keeping the ball, eating up time and keeping their opponents at arm's length.
78' KLINSMANN SPOTTED
The former Germany and USA boss is working for the media tonight up in the press stand of Windsor Park.
75' GERMANY IN CONTROL
Their lead may be slender, but they do look as if they have things in hand here. Neuer certainly isn't ruffled as he plays the ball out calmly to Tah under serious pressure from Washington...well, serious pressure for us mere mortals.
70' TWENTY TO GO...
Germany could really do with a second to calm their (and my) nerves....
69' HAVERTZ HEADS....JUST WIDE
He's not been on the pitch 60 seconds and he's making things happen. Kimmich drives a ball into the penalty area for Havertz, who guides his header just wide of Peacock-Farrell's right-hand post. The keeper was diving, but wouldn't have got there if it had been going in.
68' HAVERTZ ON
The Leverkusen prodigy bounds off the bench to replace Werner.
67' NEUER EVER ALERT
The Germany captain clasps a Whyte cross that looked like it would sneak under his crossbar.
63' THAT WAS CLOSE
Whyte, who's only just come off the bench, brushes off the challenge of Kimmich on the right...cuts it back...Dallas shoots...and Neuer watches with relief as the ball clears the far post.
McNair goes down under the challenge of Kroos inside the area - everyone in green yells for a penalty, but did the Madrid man touch him? Referee Daniele Orsato is well placed and says no.
60' A GAME OF TWO HALVES
Well, not quite, but certainly one of 45 minutes where the sides were evenly matched, and 15 minutes in the second half when Germany have been irresistible.
55' REUS EFFORT
Another Peacock-Farrell save - he's working overtime - as he flies to his right this time to push away Reus' free-kick...it was a nicely struck effort from the Dortmund captain, some 25 metres out.
53' WERNER SO CLOSE
Another dangerous forward foray by Germany...it ends with Reus teeing up Werner on the edge of the box...the Leipzig forward's measured shot is bound for the bottom right corner of Peacock-Farrell's goal before the goalkeeper flies full stretch to fingertip it round.
52' AND ANOTHER....
Gnabry, Werner and Brandt all combine brilliantly...the latter tees up Gnabry, who gets the ball a little under his feet and shoots wide. What did Löw say to his side at half-time? They've been very different to the first half in these opening minutes of the second.
50' CHANCE FOR GERMANY
Werner's shot is blocked by Peacock-Farrell, Reus' follow-up is blocked by a defender and Klostermann then fires wildly and not very handsomely with his left...the visitors close to a second goal.
48' GOAL! NORTHERN IRELAND 0-1 GERMANY
What! A! SCREAMER!!!!! Halstenberg unleashes an unstoppable volley from the left side of the penalty area, and it flashes into the far top corner! It was a cross from Klostermann this time that went right across the box to his RBL teammate. What a goal!
47' GREAT SAVE PEACOCK-FARRELL!!
Halstenberg's cross from the left finds it way right across the penalty area to his Leipzig teammate Klostermann, who takes a touch before firing goalwards...fabulous stop low to his right by the home goalkeeper.
46' 2nd HALF STARTS
It's the hosts who get us back underway...
45+3' HALF-TIME: NORTHERN IRELAND 0-0 GERMANY
We've had 45 minutes in Belfast, and neither side has been able to break the deadlock. They've had chances though but both goalkeepers have been on good form.
45+1' PEACOCK-FARRELL STRUTS HIS STUFF
Werner forces the first serious save from the home goalkeeper, who has to throw himself to his right to block the Germany number 9's first-time shot from inside the penalty area.
45' GERMAN HEARTS IN MOUTHS
Dallas smashes a low cross into the six-yard box, Neuer palms the ball into the path of Washington...he must score...but doesn't as Tah blocks him and then Neuer pounces on the ball. A huge let-off for Germany.
44' KROOS GOES CLOSE
A Northern Ireland clearance falls invitingly for Kroos - he doesn't catch the volley cleanly, but Peacock-Farrell still has to scramble over to his right to ensure it's missing the target.
42' GERMANY PRESSING
The visitors' poise is back with Kroos running the show...and then Kroos loses his cool after a foul by McNair. The Northern Ireland man is booked, but Kroos was silly to go pushing the Middlesbrough midfielder.
40' TAH ON FOR GINTER
The Leverkusen defender, who started in a back three against the Dutch, comes on to complete Germany's back four tonight.
39' SUBLIME KROOS
Kroos with a magnificent ball behind the home defence for Reus...his first-time cross is blocked...but what delivery from Kroos. Just beautiful.
37' GINTER GOES OFF INJURED
Ginter stays on the turf after that collision...it looks like he may have damaged a rib, and the medical staff immediately call for him to be substituted. Germany will play with 10 while a replacement warms up.
36' DANGEROUS CROSS
Washington isn't far away from getting a touch to a driven low cross by Dallas...Ginter did enough to stop him getting there.
34' TEMPO HOTS UP
Suddenly, both sides are putting a lot of intensity into the game...
30' GERMANY SETTLING
Definite signs Löw's men are settling into this game. They're looking more calm on the ball, and Werner in particular looks dangerous.
28' SCRAMBLE IN THE BOX
The corner comes over...and the way to the back post...Brandt and Süle both there...Peacock-Farrell pushes the ball to safety.
The ball definitely hit Cathcart's hand after Werner had struck his shot...the Leipzig man's appeals for a penalty went unheard.
Lovely build-up from Germany...Kroos flights a ball out to Klostermann, whose first-time cross is powerfully driven goal wards by Werner...it takes a deflection, Peacock-Farrell is beaten, but the ball loops over him and wide.
Saville has the air and almost the stuffing knocked out of him by a fierce Kimmich half-volley...brave defending. The Bayern man had really gotten ahold of that one.
There's an appeal from Brandt after his cross hits Jonny Evans on the arm, but the home defender had his arm in front of his body.
20' DALLAS DART
The Northern Ireland full-back exchanges passes a couple of times, charges up the right flank...his cross is cleared with some difficulty.
18' WERNER CROSS
The Leipzig gazelle gallops down the right, tries to find Gnabry in the middle, but Cathcart clears the ball over his own crossbar. The corner comes to nothing.
17' WHAT A SUNSET
The sky is purple over Belfast as the sun goes down...
Which mean Germany are on the ball. That's a good thing for Löw's men, they have mostly had to chase possession to cheers for much of the opening 15 minutes.
13' NEUER AGAIN
He comes charging out of his goal to take charge of a free-kick, punching clear to relieve the pressure on his defence. Germany needed that.
12' GERMANY ON THE BACK FOOT
Northern Ireland are really taking the game to Germany, who have to defend in numbers just to keep their hosts at bay.
Could have done better there. The Dortmund man had Gnabry steaming up the right in space, but Brandt's ball was too close to Lewis, who cleans up. A wasted half-opportunity there.
9' WERNER'S RIPOSTE
The Leipzig forward uses his legendary pace to burst forward, but his shot is blocked...
7' BRILLIANT NEUER
A Kroos pass ricochets into the path of Washington...he finds himself in a lot of space just outside the penalty box...only Neuer to beat...and he can't as the Germany captain saves his side. What a chance that was!
The hosts' number nine sends a looping shot just over the crossbar - Neuer, resplendent in all red tonight, watches it carefully.
4' GERMANY PENNED IN
The visitors have barely been out of their half. A lot of pressure from the hosts, as you might expect as they are pushed on by a very boisterous crowd.
2' LÖW GRABS A COFFEE
Nattily turned out in a grey scarf and dark suit, the Germany boss finishes off his coffee - I'd like to think it was a cappucino - as he watches his charges at work.
1' 1ST HALF UNDERWAY
Timo Werner and Marco Reus get us going...Germany in their usual white shirts, black shirts, white socks. The hosts in green shirts and socks, white shorts.
No slip-ups, unlike at the Stade de France for the France vs. Albania game the other day...
NONE SHALL SLEEP...
Puccini's 'Nessun Dorma' rings around Windsor Park, and there is absolutely no chance of anyone sleeping in Belfast tonight - there's quite an atmosphere, and one that Kimmich is aware could cause Germany a problem. "We played here two years ago and were lucky that we took an early lead," said the Bayern man. "We need to do that again tomorrow and kill the atmosphere a little."
Germany have found the net in their last eight games, scoring 22 times in total. They have quite an array of attacking talent on show tonight - all Bundesliga players - but the question is: can they keep the hosts out?
Michael O'Neill's men defeated Luxembourg on Thursday, coming through 1-0 thanks to an own-goal. That means they have had 24 hours more rest than Germany, and - in fact - only three players in tonight's starting XI started that game. Will that be a decisive factor?
LÖW'S TAKE ON THE GAME
"It's obviously an important game. You have to do everything you can to follow up a home defeat with three points," said the Germany boss. "Northern Ireland are top of the table, but our goal can only be to get the win. It will be tough – Northern Ireland are particularly tricky at home. But our team knows just how important the game is."
Germany have won their last seven meetings with Northern Ireland, goal difference 20-3. That's quite some record.
Maybe Joshua Kimmich will be one day stepping out to set a Germany appearance record - he's started well, the Bayern man has started all of his country's 18 internationals since the start of 2018.
Steven Davis leads his country out tonight for his 113th cap to become the hosts' all-time leading appearance maker for an outfield player. "It's huge – every time I pull on the jersey is a very proud moment for me," he said.
Löw goes to a back four tonight after a going with a three in Hamburg against the Dutch. Nico Schulz's injury means Marcel Halstenberg comes in at left-back, while Julian Brandt bolsters the attack - Jonathan Tah drops out of the defence and onto the bench.
We've got live text commentary of Germany's UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier against Northern Ireland - can Joachim Löw's men bounce back from Friday's defeat to the Netherlands and overtake tonight's opponents at the top of Group C?
Watch: Why is Werner so unstoppable?