Leipzig - FIFA World Cup winners Germany huffed and puffed but eventually sealed qualification for UEFA EURO 2016 on Sunday evening, beating Georgia 2-1 in Leipzig and pipping Poland to top spot in Group D.
Germany 2-1 Georgia
Goals: 1-0 Müller (pen. 50’), 1-1 Kankava (53’), 2-1 Kruse (79’)
The first half was one of intense frustration for the world champions, and Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus in particular. The 26-year-old had the majority of Germany’s 18 shots on goal, but was thwarted by some superb goalkeeping by Georgia’s Nukri Revishvili and some poor finishing, blazing his best opportunity over the bar when clean through after a lovely touch from Thomas Müller.
Joachim Löw’s men finally made the breakthrough just after the restart when Müller rolled in a penalty for his 31st international goal, but minutes later Georgia shocked the hosts when captain Jaba Kankava atoned for conceding the spot-kick by crashing a volley past the unsighted Manuel Neuer.
The home crowd were stunned, and even more so when the courageous visiting side were prevented from taking the lead thanks to two excellent saves from Neuer. With supporters' frustrations becoming audibly louder, Löw threw on Max Kruse in an attempt to freshen up the attack, and he was rewarded when the VfL Wolfsburg man swept in from Mesut Özil’s pass to seal an unconvincing win with 11 minutes remaining.
Man of the match
FC Bayern München keeper Neuer may have expected a quiet night, but he was made to work hard on his 61st appearance for his country and even kept his team in the game with two smart saves after Georgia’s equaliser.
Kruse has had a slow start to life at Wolfsburg since joining the club in the summer and is still waiting for his first league goal for the club. However, the 27-year-old’s winning effort within three minutes of his introduction on Sunday could well give him the boost he needs to kick-start his career in Lower Saxony.
- No Germany player has scored a direct free-kick for his country since Torsten Frings in 2007.
- Müller has now scored 31 international goals, 26 of them coming in competitive internationals.
- Germany have never lost a game in which Müller has scored.
- Dortmund's Mats Hummels completed 98 per cent of his passes.
- Germany have now qualified for the last 12 European Championships stretching back 1972.
- Max Kruse has now scored four goals for Germany.
Germany: Neuer – Ginter, Boateng, Hummels, Hector – Kroos, Gündogan – Müller, Özil, Reus (Bellarabi, 90’) – Schürrle (Kruse, 76’)
Georgia: Revishvili – Kverkvelia, Kashia, Amisulashvili – Lobzhanidze, Kankava, Kvekveskiri (Khizanishvili, 78’), Navalovsky – Kazaishvili (Kobakhidze, 90’), Okriashvili, Gelashvili (Vatsadze, 46’)