PODOLSKI BOWS OUT WITH WORLD-CLASS WINNER
A young, adventurous and largely dominant England side lost to Germany in Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park last night. Adam Lallana and Dele Alli squandered big opportunities in a game that was won by a thunderous strike by captain Lukas Podolski, in his final appearance for Germany.
Gareth Southgate, in his first match as permanent manager, gave a debut at centre-back to Michael Keane of Burnley, one of nine clubs represented by the Three Lions’ starting eleven. Jake Livermore of West Bromwich Albion lined up in centre-midfield for the first time in almost five years, as a relatively young England side were captained by Chelsea’s Gary Cahill. England started a match with a back-three for the first time since defeat to Croatia in 2006. Jamie Vardy started up-front. For Germany, Manchester City’s Leroy Sané was the only Premier League starter, as there were starts for youngsters Julian Weigl, Julian Brandt and a debut in attack for Leipzig’s Timo Werner.
England began the match at a ferocious pace, and when Dele Alli’s pass somehow found Jamie Vardy, the Leicester striker’s crucial touch meant goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen had to make a challenger. His lunge clearly bought down the forward, but the referee deemed the challenge legal, and any England calls for a penalty were quickly shrugged off. A loose pass from Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos was eagerly anticipated and punished by Adam Lallana soon after. He dashed half the length of the pitch, before ignoring Vardy’s call and duly shooting. The stab at goal beat the Barcelona keeper, but as it came back into a dangerous after off the post, the German defence were able to clear. England’s next chance came from a free-kick which Ryan Bertrand left for Tottenham’s Eric Dier. But the midfielder has been largely used as a substitute in the league this season, and his striker did not achieve the dip it required, powering just over the bar. Southgate’s side received their greatest chance of all next. Yet more German nerves were unpicked by eager England, and Jamie Vardy’s stab through to Dele Alli left the Spurs man one-on-one with ter Stegen. He checked and glanced, before firing right into the goalkeeper’s gut. The scoreline remained 0-0, and at the break, despite all the dominance, England had nothing to show.
The first chance of the second period fell, less than three minutes in, to the home side. A poor corner was nervously punched half-clear by Joe Hart. Unmarked and with time was Julian Brandt, but the Bayer Leverkusen man volleyed just wide. It was a let off for the men in navy blue. England began to attack only from counters, and as Livermore found Jamie Vardy, the striker’s cross deflected awkwardly off of Jonas Hector, and flew through to the onrushing Alli. But the Tottenham talent could only manage to stop the ball, and ter Stegen gathered easily. Southampton’s Nathan Redmond came on for his international debut, but just three minutes later he found himself on the losing side. Toni Kroos’ pass was flicked to Podolski by substitute André Schürrle. The Galatasaray forward set himself, before firing a rocket into the absolute extremes of the top-right corner. No keeper could have stopped it. The striker, playing his last of 130 matches for his country, celebrated it with his forty-ninth goal, and it could easily be his best.
Germany ramped up the tempo. An awkward bounce left Michael Keane exposed, but what caught out Keane was kind for Sané. The Manchester City man sprinted towards goal, firing across Joe Hart. But his club teammate [of sorts] produced easily his best moment of the night, plunging to his left, before blocking and managing to gather the ball from Sané’s stringing strike. Schürrle had a shot blocked by substitute John Stones – whose entrance came alongside that of Luke Shaw and debutant James Ward-Prowse. Manchester United duo Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford had been introduced a dozen minutes prior to this. Thomas Müller, Emre Can and Sebastian Rudy all came on for Germany, whose victory was fast becoming inevitable.
It was another big swing of Podolski’s famous left foot that won Joachim Löw’s side the match, but he said after the match that England gave the hosts a “run for our money”, and they had. It ended in Dortmund, Germany 1-0 England.