EURO 2020 qualifying: Germany hand Northern Ireland first defeat | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 09.09.2019
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EURO 2020 qualifying: Germany hand Northern Ireland first defeat

Germany bounced back to winning ways to claim top spot in Group C after a hard-fought win over Northern Ireland. Marcel Halstenberg and Serge Gnabry both struck in the second half in Belfast.

Northern Ireland 0-2 Germany

(Halstenberg 48', Gnabry 90+3')

Germany's night could have gone very differently had Northern Ireland capitalized on a fantastic first-half performance. The hosts had Germany rattled early and would have taken the lead were it not for the world-class goalkeeping skills of Manuel Neuer, the under fire No1 doing brilliantly to deny Conor Washington.

After a wholly underwhelming first-half performance though, Germany turned the game on its head soon after the restart when Marcel Halstenberg opened his international account with an eye-catching volley. The chances flowed thick and fast after the deadlock had been broken. Stuart Dallas fired wide with the hosts' best chance of the second half, but with both sides squandering opportunities, it was left to Gnabry to double the visitors' lead with virtually the last kick of the game.

"I think we had to put the defeat to one side," Marco Reus told RTL after the game. "It wasn't how we envisioned things going against the Netherlands and we were determined to show a reaction tonight. In the first half it was tough. It was much better in the second half. Minute by minute, we got stronger and we need to maintain that. Results like this will help stoke our self-confidence."

AS IT HAPPENED!

FULL TIME VERDICT

Germany toiled in the first half, but took control in the second as they bounced back to winning ways with a 2-0 win over Northern Ireland which moves them top of Group C. 

90+3' GOAL! Northern Ireland 0-2 Germany

It looked like there was nothing on when Gnabry was played to the byline, but the Bayern star makes something out of nothing, squeezing home a fine finish from the tightest of angles to double Germany's lead with likely the last chance of the game. Make it nine goals in 10 games for Gnabry at international level.

88' Old form

So having played a brand of counter-attacking football against the Dutch that proved hit or miss, Germany's revert to a more possession based style is set to produce the desired result. 

85' Reus says goodnight

The Dortmund's evening is ended as he's replaced for the dying minutes by Emre Can.

84' Havertz at the back post

As I write the last entry, the visitors break down the left. Reus picks out Havertz in space inside the box, the Leverkusen player does well to bring the ball udner his spell, but sees his shot on stretch blocked behind for a corner which comes to nothing.

82' High press, risky strategy

Germany are being forced increasingly onto the back foot by their hosts high press. It's giving Löw's side space to work with on the break, but they're not doing a great job of releasing the pressure,.

80' Final ten!

Germany are trying to remain calm and composed as we enter the closing stages, but there's still the odd moment of panicky defending to concern fans.

76' Time running out

Into the final quarter of an hour and there's a distinct sense that there's at least on twist left in this tale. 

72' Tricky tightrope

Germany have been the much better side in the second half, but at 1-0, find themselves in a very precarious position. Northern Ireland will still fancy their chances of sneaking a goal if Germany continue to push forward in search of a second that would engineer some much-needed breathing room.

69' Huge chance for Havertz!

His first touch of the ball could have and perhaps should have made it 2-0 to Germany, but Havertz was up like a salmon to meet Kimmich's free-kick, planting his header just wide of the far post.

67' Havertz is on!

Werner makes way for Heavrtz. The Leipzig striker really has struggled to recreate his club form during the international break. Let's see if Leverkusen's boy wonder can do better. 

63' This game isn't over yet

Northern Ireland go within a whisker of an equaliser. A cheeky ball down the right wing breaks the offside trap, Kimmich tries to recover, but can't before the ball is played to Dallas who fires wide. He had to hit the target there.

61' Penalty claim

Toni Kroos sticks out a leg in the box, but McNair goes to ground looking for the foul and is waved to his feet. Never a penalty.

59' Game of two halves

A lot of things are going Germany's way now. The visitors are coming out on top in most of the 50-50s and when the ball springs loose they're now the first to it. Northern Ireland are the ones who need to gather their wits now. 

56' Another top stop!

Peacock-Farrell is single-handedly keeping his side in the game at present. His latest save had him at full stretch to turn away Reus' dipping free-kick. Germany have really taken it up a gear since the restart.

54' Brilliant save

A lovely passing exchnage on the edge of the Northern Ireland box sees Werner force a fingertip save out of Peacock-Farrell with a shot that was destined for the bottom corner. 

52' Another chance

Having broken the deadlock, Germany are purring now. Gnabry and Brandt combine to great effect to spark their side into action going forward, but the Bayern star pokes wide after a neat one-two.

50' Almost two!

Germany have their foot on the throttle now as Werner sees a shot saved from a tight angle. Reus' follow up is blocked before Klostermann skies the loose ball over the bar.

48' GOAL! Northern Ireland 0-1 Germany (Halstenberg)

This time they make it count! Klostermann's cross is flicked on by Brandt before Halstenberg lashes a fierce volley into the top corner under pressure from a chasing defender. Picture-perfect technique - what a way to score your first international goal.

47' How are they not in front?!

After biding their time in breaking the host's press, Germany struggle to execute a goalscoring opportunity with Klostermann stinging the palms of Peacock-Farrell.

SECOND HALF

We're back underway in Windsor Park. Germany need to raise their game after the break or hope their hosts tire if they're going to claim top spot in Group C. 

Would this team be faring any better?

A look at the Germany side that faced Northern Ireland in 2017. 

HALF-TIME VERDICT

Both sides have squandered glorious goal scoring opportunities, but Northern Ireland had the better of the first-gal exchanges. Neuer, Süle and Tah have all had to come to their sides rescue, while at the other end Löw's charges are struggling for ideas when it comes to carving out clear-cut chances of their own. Germany knew they were going to have a tough time against the Group C leaders and can count themselves lucky to still be level at the break. 

45' Werneeeeerrrrrr!

A rare moment for the visitors as they get in behind Norther Ireland's backline. A lovely pass over the top finds Klostermann who squares to Werner. Unmarked six yards out, he fails to beat Peacock-Farrell.

45' WHAT A CHANCE!

A heart in mouth moment for Germany on the stroke of half-time. McNair whips a low cross into the box which is spilled by Neuer, Washington tries to pounce, but can't given that Tah ends up sitting on the bal before Neuer gobbles it up.

44' Half chance at best

Brandt tries to get the ball into the danger area from the right onyl to see his corss deflected to the edge of the area. Kroos is poised and ready, but sends a first-time volley into the ground and wide fo the target.

41' Do you agree?

39' Tah enters the fray

Germany are forced into an early change as Ginter is replaced by Tah after picking up an injury. 

38' Close!

A lovely move down the right for Northern Ireland sees sizzling low cross that Washington narrowly fails to reach in front of goal.

37' No firepower

It has to be said for all their attacking talents, Germany are struggling to create chances in front of goal.

34' Getting to grips

Northern Ireland could easily have broken the deadlock in the opening exchanges, but Germany are now asserting themselves more positively on proceedings, winning back possession more quickly and decisively.

31' Saved by the offside flag

McNair looks to release Washington in behind with an early pass, but the Northern Ireland striker is stopped in his tracks by the offside flag.

28' Penalty claim - golden chance!

Germany have a shout at a spot kick as Werner's shot deflects behind for a corner off the outstretched arm of Cathcart. No penalty given, but the visitors almost take the lead from the corner. A flick on finds Süle, who fails to get any power a stab at the ball from six yards out. 

24' Freund eyes positive results

RTL co-commentator and former Germany international Steffen Freund: "They haven't had it easy so far, but for Germany the minimum requirement against Nothern Ireland is four points from two games and that should suffice in Group C."

21' Best chance for Germany...

...goes begging and again it's because of poor decision making. This time Reus is the guilty party as he went it alone in a crowded box when Werner had made the perfect run as the man over. The Dortmund man's shot in blocked and Werner didn't waste much time in sharing his thoughts on the situation.

18' What a waste

Gnabry and Brandt have switched flanks and it almost makes an immediate impact with Germany breaking in transition with Werner. However, with time and space on his side the Leipzig striker fails to pick out the right pass. 

16' Tough nut to crack

Germany enjoy their first extended period of possession under a cacophony of cat calls and whistles. The ball is worked to Gnabry on the edge of the box as the chance comes to nothing with the Bayern star crowded off the ball.

13' Leading by example

Niklas Süle is forced to intervene with the hosts long-ball tactics causing problems and heads clear from the long throw that follows his clearance. He was bellowing at his teammates in between takes - Germany haven't looked sharp, but Süle has.

10' No calm in the storm

Northern Ireland are really taking the game to the visitors and have had the better of the opening 10 minutes.

7' Chance at the other end

Germany break after the missed chance, but when Werner cuts inside his shot comes off the back of Brandt as the counter fizzles out.

7' WHAT A SAVE!

That's why Neuer still pips ter Stegen to the No1 jersey. Germany concede possession under a press presenting Washington with a golden opportunity to open the scoring. Neuer rushes off his line to close the angle and makes a huge save one-on-one. 

6' First shot of the game

An extended period of possession for Northern Ireland produces the first sight of goal as Washington fails to connect cleanly on a strike that loops over the bar under Neuer's watchful gaze.

4' Testing the waters

First corner of the game goes the hosts way, but the delivery is wasteful and the following throw fails to produce a chance on goal.

3' Ear plugs needed

Joachim Löw referred to the Northern Irish fans as "some of the loudest we've experienced, regardless of whether their team are winning or not" and the home fans are certainly drumming up a real racket.

KICK OFF!

After a rendition of Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline and both side's respective national anthems the ball is rolling in Belfast! Can Germany bounce back from the defeat to the Netherlands?

Reus in preferred position

Löw went on to explain that tonight's approach would take on a 4-3-3 shape with Reus dropping into the No10 position with Brandt starting out wide on the left. A chance for both Dortmund stars to shine, but expect them to interchange throughout the 90 minutes.

Joachim Löw talking to RTL

"It's obviously an important game. You've got to do everything you can to take three points following a home defeat. Northern Ireland sit top of the group, but our only aim is to pick up a win. It will be tough – Northern Ireland are particularly tricky at home, but we're well aware of just how important tonight's clash is."  

There's only one Audi Völler?

One Northern Irish journalist has been sharing a momento from the 1982 meeting of these two sides with his German colleagues, who spotted a slight typo in the squad lists. 

Oh captain, my captain

Hopefully Manuel Neuer doesn't pull a Lukas Hradecky and leave the national pennant in the changing room. The Leverkusen goalkeeper suffered the mishap last night as he captained Finland for the first time. 

Still no Havertz

The Bayer Leverkusen prodigy has struggled to carve out a role in the 3-4-3 set-up, but with a change in system, was expected to start tonight, especially given the absence of Gündogan. However, Löw had other ideas and has plumped for Brandt in midfield. The two are best friends off the pitch so something tells us Kai won't begrudge Brandt getting the nod.

Leipzig triumvirate

With Klostermann, Halstenberg and Werner all featuring from the off, tonight's clash with Northern Ireland is the first time Germany's first eleven has had three Leipzig representatives. 

Confirmed line-ups: Northern Ireland

Just three players - Peacock-Farrell, Evans and Saville - have kept their place following the 1-0 win over Luxembourg. 

Confirmed line-ups: Germany

There are two changes to the side that lost to the Netherlands as Marcel Halstenberg replaces the injured Nico Schulz. The switch to a four-man backline has cost Jonathan Tah his starting berth with his former Leverkusen teammate Julian Brandt adding an extra body in midfield. 

— Northern Ireland will have to keep Serge Gnabry quiet if they have any aspirations of keeping a share of the spoils on home turf. The Bayern winger, who received the full backing from Löw before the clash with the Netherlands, has scored eight goals in his nine international appearances for Die Nationalmannschaft.

— Friday's 4-2 defeat was a significant set-back for Germany, not only the loss in itself, but the manner in which it happened. A positive response is a must in Belfast even if talk of Joachim Löw's demise was somewhat premature.  

— Will Germany be able to produce more worldies tonight? 

— Among the questions Löw needs to answer is what to do about Timo Werner in a Germany shirt. After a strong start to his international career, he's now only got goals in the rout against Estonia and in the Nations League against the Netherlands since the World Cup warm up matches.

Löw has tried him in a few positions but there is a school of thought that he's better with a strike partner, as he has at club level — Werner has got five in three Bundesliga games for Leipzig this season. He's played all across the front three for Germany of late but the paucity of strikers means there's a heavy weight on his shoulders.

— Joshua Kimmich was the player sat alongside Löw in the press conference ahead of the game and the Bayern Munich man is ready for a battle.

"We need to react, and that's something that we will do," he said. "Anyone who thinks tomorrow will be a walk in the park is completely off the mark."

— We know that Löw will be keeping faith with one of the old guard tonight in Manuel Neuer but is there any way back for Boateng, Müller and Hummels? A fair number of people in the German press have suggested so in the wake of the defensive errors that cost Germany on Friday night. 

It's difficult to see Löw going back on such a public, and big, call at this point and the reasons remain largely sound. But anything less than a win tonight and those calls may become louder.

 "Northern Ireland play with one central striker, which means for us that we only need two central defenders instead of three," the coach has said. It'll be interesting to see whether that's Ginter or Tah. History suggests Löw will go with the former.

— Here's how the German squad are preparing themselves for later on. It looks like they're operating in more of a function room than a gym, but I guess they had the relevant permissions.

— Amid the talk of changes and recriminations after Friday's display, it's worth remembering that Germany had won 14 straight games in major tournament qualifiers since October 2015 before that game. Surely they can't go two in a row, can they?

— This has been widely acknowledged as a rebuilding period for Germany but Kai Havertz, probably the best regarded of the country's latest generation, hasn't quite made the breakthrough on the international stage. Could tonight be his night?

—  Here's Michael O'Neill on the size of the task for Northern Ireland tonight. 

"It [a positive result] would be right up there in terms of great Northern Ireland results," the Northern Ireland boss said. "We've had big nights here in the past — the wins against England [2005] and Spain [2006] — but ultimately they never really led to anything.

"They didn't lead to qualification. It was just a great experience and a great night for the fans. A result tomorrow night not only will be that but will also be a key factor in terms of qualification for Euro 2020."

Northern Ireland face Germany and the Netherlands twice each in their next, and last, four qualifiers.

—  Northern Ireland top this qualifying group with four wins from four but have yet to play one of the big boys. All four wins have been fairly narrow, with Michael O'Neill's men yet to score more than twice. A 1-0 friendly win over Luxembourg also speaks to a lack of real potency at the front end.

But O'Neill made history by taking his side to Euro 2016 and they're defensively sound, with Premier League regulars Craig Cathcart and Jonny Evans the main men at the back. There's bound to be a feverish atmosphere at Windsor Park, it could prove a tough task for Germany.

— Further back on the pitch, questionable defensive displays from fellow center backs Jonathan Tah and Matthias Ginter against the Netherlands have increased the pressure on Bayern Munich's Niklas Süle as the leader of the defense.

But the former Hoffenheim man recently admitted that organization is a part of the game he has to work on.  "In my communication off the field, I am very strong. On the pitch, I am still lacking a little bit to be considered a real defensive leader," he said last week. 

With Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels consigned to the international wilderness, the squad do seem to lack a bit of nous and experience. Joachim Löw will hoping Süle and his teammates develop it over the rest of this campaign.

—  We know that the absence of Nico Schulz will force at least one change for Germany tonight but there'll surely be more given the nature of the performance against the Netherlands. Julian Brandt, who has impressed for new club Borussia Dortmund largely from the bench, said he's looking to get more than cameo appearances for the national side too.

"Of course 10 minutes isn't my aim, that's clear," the 23-year-old told broadcaster Sport 1 at the weekend. "I can imagine we might switch from five at the back to four against Northern Ireland which gives someone the chance from the bench." Will he be the man? It feels like Germany might need a player of his creative talents to unlock hosts who seem likely to sit deep.

— For the stat nerds out there, this will be Germany's 18th game against Northern Ireland. The last meeting came in a World Cup qualifier in 2017, a game that Germany won 3-1 thanks to goals from Sebastian Rudy, Sandro Wagner and Joshua Kimmich. Germany's record in this fixture is 11 wins, four draws and two defeats. The last defeat came in Euro qualifying back in 1983 — Norman Whiteside's goal was enough to win the game in Hamburg.

— There were also calls for Mats Hummels to return after the defensive frailty on show in Hamburg. Löw has poured cold water over that, and quickly too. Amidst all of that talk and the Havertz hope, there's also the goalkeeper question. What of Marc-Andre ter Stegen? He will sit on the bench, again. That ends that then.

— Excluding Gündogan from this graphic, who would you play in your starting XI for Germany tomorrow night? Tweet us your answers at DW Sports!

— In Belfast, Germany will be without Nico Schulz (ligament tear in his foot) and Ilkay Gündogan (flu). Löw seemed to suggest that Gündogan would have started, but without him perhaps there's a chance for Kai Havertz?

— Hello! Germany are licking their wounds a bit after their defeat to the Dutch in Hamburg. There were question marks about style of play as Joachim Löw's rebuild took a blow. Perhaps it was just a reality check for this Germany side, who are maybe not as good as they think they are? In any case, they have the chance to set the record straight on Monday night.

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