Germany on Monday beat hosts Northern Ireland 2-0 with two goals in the second half to get their UEFA Euro 2020 qualification on track as they bounced back from a loss to the Netherlands to take over top spot in Group C.
Defender Marcel Halstenberg drilled the ball in three minutes after halftime following a lackluster first half by Germany, who lost 4-2 at home to the Netherlands on Friday last week.
Serge Gnabry continued his impressive scoring streak for Germany, netting in second-half stoppage-time for his ninth goal in his 10th international, completing Germany’s eighth consecutive win over Northern Ireland.
The win put Germany on 12 points from five games, ahead on goal-difference of second-placed Northern Ireland, who suffered their first loss of the campaign as captain Steven Davis became their most capped outfield player with 113 appearances.
The third-placed Netherlands, 4-0 winners away to Estonia on Monday, are on nine points from four matches.
“We were under pressure to win after Friday’s result and we had to overcome some obstacles in the first half,” Germany coach Joachim Loew told reporters. “The Northern Irish attacked early and disrupted our game. After the break we did it better.”
Germany, missing half a dozen injured players, seemed to lack a clear game plan in the first half as they struggled to find ways to open up the hosts’ defense.
Loew’s young team, looking to recover from last year’s shock first-round exit at the World Cup and Nations League relegation, have not had enough match practice and it showed.
“We had never played before with this lineup,” Loew said. “So we will need some patience because this a learning process.”
Conor Washington had a golden chance to put the hosts ahead in the seventh minute when he pounced on a rare Toni Kroos mistake, but he fired straight at charging goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Germany looked to be feeling the effects of last week’s loss, with the hosts working hard to stifle their attacks.
“We managed to stop them building the game, and got joy off pressing and winning the ball higher up the pitch,” Northern Ireland coach Michael O’Neill told Sky. “It’s very difficult to do that against this level of opposition. I’m proud of what they gave.”
In Group E, Croatia were held to a shock 1-1 draw by Azerbaijan and Slovakia won 2-1 away in Hungary, while in Group G, Poland were held goalless by Austria, Slovenia edged Israel 3-2 and North Macedonia won 2-0 in Latvia.
In Group I, Belgium spanked Scotland 4-0, Cyprus won by the same score in San Marino and Russia edged Kazakhstan 1-0.
Additional reporting by staff writer