Germany defeat Northern Ireland in Euro 2020 qualifier

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Goals from Marcel Halstenberg and Serge Gnabry saw Germany win 2-0 at Windsor Park in Belfast as Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis became the countries most capped outfield player in Monday’s Euro 2020 qualifier.

Northern Ireland won the first corner of the game on 4 minutes when Paddy McNair burst down the left before his low cross was well blocked by Lukas Klostermann, from the resulting corner Matthias Ginter beat Niall McGinn to the ball to clear.

On 7 minutes it was Michael O’Neill’s side who had the first clear cut chance of the game as Joshua Kimmich played a loose ball back to his defence but only found home striker Conor Washington who attempted to chip over Manuel Neuer but he parried the effort away from goal.

Germany created their first opening on 18 minutes when Marco Reus drove forward on a counter attack before his low cross was cleared over his own crossbar by Craig Cathcart at the heart of the Northern Ireland defence as the resulting corner came to nothing.

As the Germans cranked up the pressure they had another fine opportunity when Julian Brandt broke into the box before his low cross was only half cleared by Jonny Evans the ball falling to Toni Kroos who saw his volley heroically blocked by George Saville.

It was the visitors who were taking control of the game as on 26 minutes Brandt linked up with Reus before his cutback found Timo Werner who’s effort was deflected just wide of Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s right hand post by Cathcart.

From the resulting corner Peacock-Farrell had to be alert when Reus stabbed an effort goal-wards at the back-post unmarked but Burnley’s summer signing was on hand to push away the danger when the Borussia Dortmund winger thought he had scored.

After defeating England and Spain at Windsor Park in 2005 and 2006 Northern Ireland were on a mission to create another big scalp when McNair went on a charging run to cross to Washington but it was slightly overhit and allowed Klostermann to clear the danger with 38 minutes played.

In a frantic end to end game Germany had another half-chance when Gnabry skipped into the box before his cross was flicked away by Stuart Dallas but only as far as Kroos who lashed his effort wide of the target minutes later.

On the stroke of half-time O’Neill was left scratching his head wondering how his side wasn’t ahead as Dallas whipped in a low cross that sailed past Neuer into Washington who had to score but he couldn’t get a connection on the ball allowing the Bayern Munich and Germany number one to recover and grab the loose ball.

Peacock-Farrell was then called into the first action of the second half as Reus and Gnabry linked up to stretch the Northern Ireland defence before Werner saw his low effort well kept out by the home keeper.

However it was the Germans who opened the scoring when Marcel Halstenberg met a pinpoint cross from Klostermann to drill his volley into the top corner of the net leaving the keeper with no chance.

53 minutes had passed and It was all German pressure when Werner linked up with Reus who touched the ball back to Werner who saw his powerful low drive tipped away by Peacock-Farrell the keeper pushing his strike wide of the right hand post.

It was the home keeper that was forced into even more action on 57 minutes when he tipped a Reus free-kick away from goal as it looked set for the net but the fine reactions of Peacock-Farrell denied him.

Northern Ireland had claims for a penalty turned down when McNair powered into the box before being felled by Niklas Sule but the referee waved away the protests from the home crowd.

On 63 minutes however O’Neill’s side had another fantastic opportunity to draw level when Gavin Whyte burst down the wing before laying the ball off to Dallas who dragged his effort wide when he really should have scored from six yards out.

Joachim Low’s side then thought they had their second when Kai Havertz met a floated in Brandt cross perfectly but he could only direct his header narrowly wide of the target from just inside the six yard box.

Germany then nearly wrapped the game up on 84 minutes when Reus dinked a cross in for Havertz who saw his effort well blocked by Jamal Lewis at the back-post to keep Northern Ireland in the game.

On 87 minutes in a game that was end to end it was Northern Ireland who created an opening when Whyte whipped a ball in aiming for Josh Magennis but Neuer was out quickly to gather and see away any danger.

Germany scored their second in the final minute of added time when Havertz slid in Gnabry before he stayed composed to slip the ball threw the legs of Bailey-Peacock and into the bottom corner of the net to see them leapfrog Northern Ireland into top spot in the group.

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