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World Cup qualifying: Germany breeze past Northern Ireland to keep perfect record

First half goals from Julian Draxler and Sami Khedira were enough for Germany to beat Northern Ireland and maintain a perfect start to their qualifying campaign. The hosts were rarely troubled by their Group C rivals.

Germany 2-0 Northern Ireland

(Draxler 13', Khedira 17')

Passage to Russia 2018 is turning out to be less a cross-country hike and more a pleasure cruise for Germany, as the defending world champions collected another three points and another clean sheet with a straightforward 2-0 win over Northern Ireland.

Early goals from Julian Draxler and Sami Khedira effectively ended Tuesday's contest at Hanover's HDI Arena, where a friendly match against the Netherlands was postponed last year following a bomb scare before kick-off.

As was the case when the sides met in Euro 2016, Northern Ireland made it clear early on that they were content to absorb German pressure. As Joachim Löw had suggested they would, the men in green sat deep, allowing Germany's array of attacking midfielders to play in front of them.

But that soon proved costly. Mesut Özil was given far too much space to pick a pass to Julian Draxler in the 13th minute. The Wolfsburg winger simply shifted the ball on to his right foot before curling past Michael McGovern, who'd already made a point blank save from Mario Götze. McGovern, an unlikely hero at Euro 2016, got a hand to Draxler's strike but couldn't maintain the deadlock.

Fußball WM-Qualifikation Deutschland Nordirland Tor Draxler

Julian Draxler opened the scoring for Germany

Löw had also suggested his team's opponents would be strong in the air but that pronouncement wasn't as prophetic as his first. First Northern Ireland allowed Jerome Boateng to rise highest to win a header just inside the box before Oliver Norwood and Josh Magennis allowed Sami Khedira to do the same from close-range. Two goals in 17 minutes and the visitors' plan was in tatters.

Germany's dominance was almost total, with Boateng playing as an auxillary central midfielder and Manuel Neuer a virtual spectator in the opening period before finally being asked to make a save from a Jamie Ward shot just before the half hour mark.

The hosts thought they had a third shortly after that, as Götze turned in Müller's pull back. But the linesman ruled that the ball had gone out of play before Müller reached it.

Their opponents started to show a little more ambition as the half wore on, Magennis testing Neuer again before Norwood was brought down by Boateng centimeters from the German penalty box. Northern Ireland made nothing of the free kick but, after their disastrous start looked happy to go in to the break just two goals down.

Michael O'Neill's side appeared just as content to keep the deficit down in the second period as Germany probed without creating many clear openings, Khedira's headed effort over the bar in the 68th minute a rare exception.

They may not quite have been able to score again to make it three 3-0 qualifying wins on the bounce but it was another controlled display from the Germans. And with group rivals Czech Republic and Azerbaijan drawing in Ostrava, the world champions' route to Russia looks increasingly straightforward.

 

As it happened

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