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Sports

Efficiency Over Class as Laboring Germany Beat Liechtenstein

Germany defeated minnows Liechtenstein 4-0 on Saturday with efficiency rather than class to maintain a four-point lead in their World Cup qualifying group.

Germany's midfielder Michael Ballack, center, is congratulated by his teammates after he scores his side's first goal during the World Cup group 4 qualifying soccer match between Germany and Liechtenstein in Leipzig, Germany, on Saturday, March 28, 2009.

Ballack's goal didn't open the expected floodgates

Captain Michael Ballack opened the scoring in the fourth minute, his 40th personal goal and 200th for Germany in World Cup qualifying overall. Marcell Jansen, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski got the other goals.

Germany top Group 4 with 13 points from five games ahead of Russia, who have nine from four games. Only the group winner qualifies directly for the 2010 finals in South Africa.

"We have fulfilled our duty," said Germany coach Joachim Loew. "We had expected Liechtenstein would defend with nine or ten men. Obviously, we would have liked to have scored a few more goals, but I am quite content."

Liechtenstein coach Hans-Peter Zaugg admitted afterwards this was a good result for them and Germany's stars had expected more goals.

Liechtenstein goalkeeper Peter Jehle said: "I am a little disappointed how we conceded the goals early in each half. We made life too easy for the Germans but in the end we played a decent match."

Loew had to make several changes due to injuries concerning among others striker Miroslav Klose, midfielder Torsten Frings and defender Arne Friedrich.

TSG Hoffenheim defender Andreas Beck started for a first time and Hanover's Robert Enke returned between the posts from a hand fracture.

Germany were determined from the start to make up for home defeats against England and Norway in their last two (friendly) matches, with Mario Gomez heading wide just 16 seconds into the game.

Chelsea midfielder Ballack broke the deadlock in the fourth minute with a stunning volley high into the net off Schweinsteiger's cross.

Just five minutes later SV Hamburg's Jansen doubled the lead on the rebound from Podolski's shot saved which had been saved by Jehle.

Avalanche of goals fails to materialize

The fans naturally hoped for plenty goals but the Germans then showed a lack of precision until the break, and the second half passed in identical fashion.

Germany's midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, center scores his side's 3rd goal

Schweini added a goal to give Germany a 3-0 lead

Schweinsteiger made victory secure when he scored the third goal in the 48th when he hit the empty net after an initial shot from his Bayern Munich team-mate Podolski, who then found the net himself two minutes later.

Enke had to make only one save, in the 54th against Mario Frick, while up front most notably VfB Stuttgart forward Mario Gomez failed to score as his Germany drought now covers almost one year.

Germany next visit Wales, 2-0 losers against Finland Saturday, on Wednesday. The same day Liechtenstein host Russia.

"I am pleased with the victory, but now much harder tasks lie ahead for us," said Ballack whose side face Russia next October in Moscow in the game which is likely to decide the group. "We did our job today but the next match will be tougher."

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