It was a night of sentiment and success as Germany returned to form against rivals Austria, winning Friday’s World Cup qualifier 3-0. Miroslav Klose’s record-equalling goal set the hosts on their way in Munich.
Toni Kroos added the second and Thomas Müller completed the scoring as Germany moved to within touching distance of a place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Joachim Löw’s men continue to lead Group C by five points with three matches remaining.
Presentations to former captain Michael Ballack for his service to the national team and incumbent Philipp Lahm for his 100th cap set the mood pre-match.
Klose did his part to maintain it, finishing powerfully at the near post on 33 minutes after Müller’s superb cross from the right.
The goal was the Lazio striker’s 68th for his country, pulling him level with Gerd Müller atop Germany’s all-time goalscoring list.
Germany dominated possession from the outset, with Austria failing to live up to their pre-match declarations of taking it to the hosts.
The cracks and creaks of Die Mannschaft’s disappointing 3-3 draw with Paraguay in August were nowhere to be seen.
Nowhere was that more evident than the middle of the park, where Sami Khedira - a feather duster that night - had returned to rooster form.
He made life easy for central defensive pair Jerome Boateng and Per Mertesacker by cutting Austria off at the pass time and again, with Mesut Özil and Toni Kroos eager to collect the crumbs and turn defense into attack.
Germany’s closest other chance of the first half came shortly before the half-hour mark, when Marco Reus’ shot was deflected into the path of Klose.
On this occasion, however, Austria goalkeeper Robert Almer was able to clear as the ball threatened to float in.
Austria’s chances were few. Bayern Munich starlet David Alaba barely raised Manuel Neuer’s heartbeat when he tried his luck from outside the area on 39 minutes, in the first effort of note for the visitors.
At least Aleksandar Dragovic’s dipping volley shortly before half-time required a bit more work from the Germany goalkeeper.
Austria were poor in the first half, though showed signs they could rally with a positive start to the second.
But after shots from Andreas Weimann and Veli Kavlak, it was instead Germany who extended their lead on 50 minutes.
Taking possession on the left-hand side of the area, Reus delivered a no-look pass into the path of Kroos to lash home with the outside of his right foot.
Reus nearly created a third with a cheeky backheel to Müller soon after, and the Borussia Dortmund forward continued to cause Austria’s defense headaches.
Both teams threatened around the 70th-minute mark; Martin Harnik could not tap past Neuer from close range, while Müller tested Almer twice moments later before the Austria custodian could claim.
The pace of the game tailed off thereafter, hardly helped by a flurry of yellow cards.
There was still time for Müller to make it three, however, when Kroos and Höwedes combined to give him a comfortable tap-in on 88 minutes.
Elsewhere in Group C, Sweden’s 2-1 win over Ireland ensured they went three points clear in second and Kazakhstan triumphed over the Faroe Islands by the same score.
The results mean one more win is potentially all it could take for Germany to clinch a 2014 World Cup spot, topping off that feel-good factor for Die Mannschaft on Wednesday.