- Mustafi header puts Germany head in first half.
- Neuer makes two fine saves, Boateng a remarkable goalline clearance.
- Schweinsteiger comes off bench to grab second.
Shkodran Mustafi’s first-half header and a late Bastian Schweinsteiger strike got Germany off to a winning start at UEFA EURO 2016 with a 2-0 victory over Ukraine in their Group C opener on Sunday.
Germany 2-0 Ukraine
Goals: 1-0 Mustafi (19’), 2-0 Schweinsteiger (90+2’)
With Ukraine boasting their biggest name in the dug-out in the legendary Andriy Shevchenko, now one of the national team’s backroom staff, Germany could have been forgiven for expecting an easy ride in Lille.
Yevhen Konoplyanka soon served notice there is talent in the current Ukraine squad, however, in the shape of a crisp drive Manuel Neuer turned away smartly. Had Jonas Hector been a natural right-back rather than left-back, the 1. FC Köln defender would surely have given Germany the lead, but skewed his shot with his weaker foot from Thomas Müller’s intelligent knockdown. Mustafi also used his head to good effect, rising to direct Toni Kroos’ devillishly delivered free-kick into the top corner.
Neuer and opposite number Andriy Pyatov traded saves, the former brilliantly turning a close-range Yevhen Khacheridi header over his bar, the latter standing firm when Sami Khedira broke clear of the yellow-and-blue-clad back four. When Neuer was beaten eight minutes before the break by Konoplyanka’s shot, his FC Bayern München team-mate, Jerome Boateng, somehow cleared the goalbound effort with just centimetres to spare.
Pyatov blocked Julian Draxler’s firm angled drive early in the second half, and the VfL Wolfsburg man then headed over after making a late burst into the box. Pyatov also pushed away a Khedira shot and a fizzing Müller drive as Joachim Löw’s men tried in vain to give themselves a plumper cushion on which to sit through to the final whistle.
Mustafi nearly made the closing stages more uncomfortable still, sending a back header over Neuer and desperately close to his own goal before Schweinsteiger - barely off the bench - capped a counter-attack with seconds left to give Germany a second.
Man of the Match
But for Neuer, Germany would have been behind at the break, and who knows how the game might have panned out…
Germany: Neuer (c) - Höwedes, Mustafi, Boateng, Hector - Kroos, Khedira - Draxler (Schürrle 78'), Özil, Müller - Götze (Schweinsteiger 90’)
Coach: Joachim Löw
Ukraine: Pyatov - Fedetskiy, Khacheridi, Rakitskiy, Shevchuk (c) - Sydorchuk, Stepanenko - Yarmolenko, Kovalenko (Zinchenko 73’), Konoplyanka - Zozulya (Seleznyov 66’)
Coach: Mykhailo Fomenko