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Sports

Germany, Mertesacker frustrate England at Wembley to claim 1-0 win

It is a shame Per Mertesacker plays his football in London, thus affording Germany’s captain far less time to reflect on his winner over England on his way home. The defender’s goal was the difference in a 1-0 win.

The victory was more smash-and-grab than smart and savvy, but Mertesacker would not have cared. Nor would Germany head coach Joachim Löw, with his side ending the international break on a winning note after Friday’s 1-1 draw with Italy.

The frustration for England was almost tangible at the final whistle, and the boos that greeted it were expected. With the lion’s share of the attacking play at Wembley on Tuesday, England must have felt they were banging their heads up against a big, green wall.

The disappointment would have been amplified knowing that, while England brought a host of first-choice players back into their line-up for the match, Germany were far from full strength after electing to rest more than a handful of stars.

As was expected against their old rivals and at Wembley, England began the match tenaciously and dominated early possession.

Andros Townsend ensured Germany’s recalled right back Marcel Schmelzer had no time to ease back into international football, while the visitors’ much-changed midfield struggled to meld.

Sven and Lars Bender might be identical twins but they linked at times like strangers in the center of the park. Mario Götze, Max Kruse and Marco Reus, meanwhile, seemed to spend most of their time in possession attempting to backtrack out of blind alleys.

It was not until the 20-minute mark that the game’s first chance at goal came about, and Wayne Rooney’s harmless looping header perhaps summed up a first half of few decent efforts. England continued to push, with captain Steven Gerrard - in his 108th cap for his country - pulling the strings.

Germany artful in defense

But if Germany’s midfield was a misfiring Trabant, its central defensive partnership was a finely tuned Mercedes. Jerome Boateng’s stint at Manchester City was ignominious, but the now-Bayern Munich defender did not put a toe wrong back in England with his nation. Mertesacker - captain in the absence of the rested Philipp Lahm - was almost as good, and added to his worth by scoring the only goal of the game on 39 minutes.

He capitalized on a white-hot minute of attacking football from Germany as their midfield finally spluttered to life. Joe Hart had saved from Mertesacker and Mario Götze in quick succession, but could do nothing from the following corner when the Germany skipper powered a second effort home.

Gerrard threatened from long distance shortly before the half-time whistle, but it was somehow Germany who took the lead into the break.

Boateng and Schmelzer were withdrawn at half-time, with Mats Hummels and Marcell Jansen taking their respective places.

It was a frustrating night for England, despite the best efforts of (L-R) Daniel Sturridge, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard. Photo: Getty

England, despite the best efforts of (L-R) Daniel Sturridge, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard.

Townsend struck the upright on 57 minutes with Germany’s 33-year-old debutant goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller flapping, while Götze had his own chance at the other end saved by Hart.

Hummels seemed to have picked up where Boateng left off before his withdrawal on 65 minutes through injury. Back in Germany, the remote control of his club coach Jürgen Klopp, whose Dortmund team faces Bayern Munich on Saturday, might not have been safe.

Even in Hummels’ England absence, however, Germany stood up well against the constant waves of England attacks.

England lack ideas, inspiration

The measure of Germany’s sound efforts at the back was in the counterattacks of their opponents. Full of pace and running when taking possession, England’s attacking ideas seemed run dry the closer they got to goal.

Roy Hodgson’s men perhaps seemed more threatening from the air, and Chris Smalling got Weidenfeller scampering when the Manchester United man’s header was deflected just over from a corner.

Germany kept England on their toes despite more substitutions and a defensive re-shuffle, however, with Julian Draxler and Sidney Sam offering attacking intent of their own when brought on.

Despite the best efforts of Townsend, it felt like England would struggle to score over 180 minutes, let alone 90. The final whistle came with an air of resignation - and those inevitable boos.