COMEBACK LEAVES GERMANS JILTED
An inexperienced England side came from two goals down to defeat Joachim Löw’s world champions Germany. This season’s Premier League heroes at Tottenham and Leicester did the damage in Berlin.
Roy Hodgson fielded a very young eleven for England’s tie with World Champions Germany at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. 71,000 people were in attendance, as the Three Lions hoped to maintain their record of never having lost to Germany in the capital. Players of both sides wore black armbands in memory of Johan Cruyff, the Dutch great, and a minute’s silence was held in honour of the recent deaths in Brussels. Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels, Marco Reus, Mesut Özil and Thomas Müller joined Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira in a strong line-up for Germany. Danny Rose was handed his England debut at left-back, and joined Jack Butland, Nathaniel Clyne, Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Harry Kane in the list of visiting starters with less than ten caps for their country. Gary Cahill captained England in the absence of Raheem Sterling, and both captain Wayne Rooney and his deputy Joe Hart [all injured]. Danny Welbeck also returned to the England team, after a long length out through injury.
As England began at a fast pace, the first chance saw Gary Cahill connect with Jordan Henderson’s corner, only for Harry Kane’s flick-on to fly miles over from no more than six yards. Soon after, Liverpool’s Emre Can pushed a cross into veteran striker Mario Gomez, back in the team after a fabulous season in Turkey, but the striker’s header was well defended by Cahill. The resulting corner saw Gomez’s headed pass smothered well by the on-rushing Butland, as Hummels would have had a tap in had the Stoke goalkeeper not reacted.
Teenager Dele Alli then had two sights of goal, first heading weakly into Neuer’s arms, before rifling the ball just over from a long, long way out. Then came a moment of total controversy. As Mario Gomez slammed the ball into the net and wheeled away in celebration, the linesman ruled the goal out after the ball had hit the back of the net. Replays show that Hodgson’s side were lucky, as Gomez was in fact on-side. Another two sights of goal fell to Lallana and Kane, and England were all but running the game. But as Jack Butland cleared the ball away, he picked up an injury. Deciding not to put the ball into touch was a costly decision, and Toni Kroos pounced, thundering the ball into the net from well outside the box. As Butland was stretchered off in tears, Southampton’s Fraser Forster replaced him, and the half-time whistle went.
It took a while in the second half for both sides to rediscover their rhythm and form. Germany had the first chance after the restart, Fraser Forster tipping Marco Reus’ corner over the bar. After a moment of sloppiness from Manchester United’s Chris Smalling was resolved, Dele Alli got the chance to run at the German defence, forcing Neuer into a good diving stop from his powerful, swerving effort. Henderson was then denied by a Jonas Hector block after good work by Danny Welbeck.
No sooner was that attack over than Löw’s side were 2-0 up. As Germany broke away, captain Sami Khedira lifted a beautiful ball into Mario Gomez, who beat Cahill and Clyne in the air to bullet the ball into the ground and way beyond Forster’s reach. Not five minutes later, an England corner, taken by Henderson, reached Harry Kane, whose Cruyff turn set him up beautifully, before the striker released an accurately driven shot. Flying between Can’s legs, it smacked the post before smacking the net. Neuer had no chance. It was another mesmerizing attack soon after that almost gave England an equaliser. Harry Kane, Adam Lallana and Danny Welbeck were all involved before Alli’s driven strike was stopped well by the left leg of Bayern’s Manuel Neuer. Welbeck and Lallana then gave way for two of the season’s top-performing English players: Jamie Vardy and Ross Barkley. As England broke away at stunning pace, Barkley fed Clyne on the right wing. The Southampton man crossed for Vardy who unleashed a ridiculous in-step flick into the net, and beyond the distraught Neuer.
Then came a moment of England despair. As Vardy pounced on a sloppy German goal-kick, he unselfishly fed Alli. The teenager had an open goal to aim at but fired the ball over the bar from no more than twelve yards. The icing on the cake would though duly arrive. As Henderson swung in another belting corner – one minute into stoppage time – Tottenham’s Eric Dier, playing for only the third time for England, rose spiritedly to lash the ball into the bottom of the net from eight yards. The England players, including an unfazed Alli span away in rampant celebration as England held on to an astonishing victory. Vardy and Dier celebrated their first international goals, Hodgson celebrated his “best night as England manager”. It ended Germany 2-3 England.