Germany squeeze past Ukraine to seal first Nations League win


Kiev (AFP) – Germany picked up a first win in their Nations League group on Saturday with a workmanlike 2-1 away victory at Ukraine to break their run of three straight draws in which they surrendered the lead each time. 

Defender Matthias Ginter gave Germany a first-half lead in Kiev, then Leon Goretzka capitalised on a horrible mistake by the Ukraine goalkeeper before Ruslan Malinovskyi converted a late penalty for the hosts.

After drawing their opening Nations League games against Spain and Switzerland, then being held 3-3 by Turkey in a friendly on Wednesday, the win lifted Germany to second in the group behind Spain.

However, Germany can expect a much tougher task against the Swiss in Cologne on Tuesday and should have scored more having enjoyed around 75 possession against a weakened Ukraine side.

“It was important to get the win, but we didn’t take our chances to make it 3-0. It wasn’t the best game from us,” admitted goal-scorer Ginter.

Germany named a full-strength side with Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Julian Draxler and Chelsea defender Antonio Ruediger the only two survivors of the side which started Wednesday’s draw against Turkey.  

They took the lead on 20 minutes when Ruediger put in a good run in the area and squared the ball where Ginter was waiting at the far post.

The Germans kept Ukraine goalkeeper Heorhiy Bushchan busy all evening.

With half an hour played, the Dynamo Kiev shot stopper tipped a long-range strike from Joshua Kimmich over the bar, then palmed a Serge Gnabry header around the post four minutes later.

However, in the match build-up Germany head coach Joachim Loew had made a point of wanting less possession given away, but on far too many occasions his side was guilty of surrendering the ball with sloppy passes.

One particular poor pass to no-one by Gnabry was snapped up by the Ukraine attack.

The chance came to nothing, but a better team would have punished the Germans’ first-half sloppiness. 

Germany tightened their passing and doubled their lead four minutes after the break when Bushchan – for once – failed to hold a cross and Goretzka headed the stray ball into the net.

Bushchan quickly regained his composure to deny Draxler’s shot at point-blank range when he got down to make a great parry moments later.

Another great save just before the hour mark saw a volley by wing back Luke Klostermann pushed the ball over the crossbar.

Ukraine pulled a goal back 14 minutes from time when burly German centre-back Niklas Suele mistimed his tackle in the area and brought down Ukraine forward Roman Yaremchuk, then Malinovskyi converted the penalty.

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