Schuerrle nets twice for five-star Germany

Baku (AFP) – Germany leaked their first goal since July, but still extended their perfect record in World Cup qualifiers to five straight wins following Sunday’s 4-1 victory away to Azerbaijan with Andre Schuerrle scoring twice.

First-half goals by Schuerrle, Thomas Mueller and Mario Gomez put the world champions 3-1 up at the break, although Azerbaijan midfielder Dimitrij Nazarov, who plays in Germany, had netted an early equaliser to the delight of the home crowd.

It was the first goal Germany had conceded following seven previous clean sheets — a national team record — dating back to their 2-0 defeat in Marseille against France in the semi-finals of Euro 2016.

However, Schuerrle added a late second goal to reward the faith shown in him by Germany’s head coach Joachim Loew despite a series of below-par displays for Borussia Dortmund.  

The away win means Germany stay top of Group C with five wins from five, scoring 20 goals and having now conceded just once. 

Germany were near full strength, but with captain and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer out with the calf injury, Bayer Leverkusen’s Bernd Leno made only his fourth appearance between the posts.

Juventus’ defensive midfielder Sami Khedira took over the captain’s armband in Neuer’s absence.

The world champions went ahead with the first clear chance.

Toni Kroos spotted space on the left wing for Jonas Hector to whip in a cross which Schuerrle stabbed home with 19 minutes gone.

It was Schuerrle’s first Germany goal since his hat-trick in the 7-0 thrashing of minnows Gibraltar in June 2015.

However, Azerbaijan fought back and drew level with 31 minutes gone.

Nazarov, who plays for Bundesliga second division club Erzgebirge Aue, finished a counter-attack with a superb strike.

It was the first time the German defence has been beaten in five World Cup qualifiers.

But it stayed 1-1 for only five minutes as Schuerrle restored the lead by poaching possession and snuffing out a Azerbaijan counter attack.

He placed his pass in behind the defence for Mueller to convert on 36 minutes.

It was Mueller’s fifth goal in five 2018 qualifiers this season, although he has netted just two Bundesliga goals for Bayern Munich this season.

Gomez then made his height count as the 1.89m (six foot, two inches) striker outjumped Azerbaijan’s right-back Magomed Mirzabekoto, 1.68m (five foot, five inches), to head home Joshua Kimmich’s cross on 45 minutes.

Mesut Ozil replaced Gomez for the final 30 minutes but the tempo dropped with Khedira going close when his shot was saved with 15 minutes left.

Schuerrle sealed the win on 81 minutes by converting another good cross from the left by Hector.

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