GER­MANY IN CRUISE CON­TROL

De­fend­ing cham­pi­ons ease past Azer­bai­jan to main­tain per­fect record

New Straits Times - - Sport - JOACHIM LOEW

BER­LIN Sun­day. Lit­tle-used for­ward An­dre Schuer­rle scored two and set up an­other.

“We ab­so­lutely ful­filled our duty,” Ger­many coach Joachim Loew said af­ter the fifth win from five games in their group.

“It was like a cup game against a team from a lower divi­sion. If you don’t go in at the top of your game, you make them stronger than they are.”

Ger­many have scored 20 goals so far in their cam­paign and are look­ing to clinch qual­i­fi­ca­tion as soon as pos­si­ble.

“We’ve al­ways clearly won against the smaller na­tions in the last years and that’s down to the play­ers that lead the team,” Loew said.

Ger­many lead by five points from North­ern Ire­land, who de­feated Nor­way 2-0 in Belfast.

The Czech Repub­lic, who racked up a 6-0 win in San Marino, are two points fur­ther back, one ahead of Azer­bai­jan.

Two goals each from An­tonin Barak and Vladimir Darida, and goals from Theodor Ge­bre Se­lassie and Michal Kr­men­cik, gave the Czechs their big­gest ever away win.

Loew had ex­pressed his faith in Schuer­rle be­fore the game in Baku, de­spite the player mak­ing seven of his 15 Bun­desliga ap­pear­ances and five of his six Cham­pi­ons League games as a sub­sti­tute for Borus­sia Dort­mund this sea­son.

“I wasn’t sur­prised,” Loew said of Schuer­rle’s per­for­mance af­ter giv­ing the 26-year-old his first Ger­many start for 1 1/2 years. “I hope it gives him a boost for Dort­mund.”

Schuer­rle broke the dead­lock in the 19th minute. Julian Draxler spot­ted Jonas Hec­tor free to his left and passed for the de­fender to send it straight back for Schuer­rle, who fin­ished from close range.

Just as it seemed the vis­i­tors were com­pletely in con­trol, Dim­itrij Nazarov equalised in the 31st with a per­fectly placed shot in­side the far post af­ter four Ger­many de­fend­ers failed to stop Afran Is­maylov from pick­ing him out. It was the first goal Ger­many had con­ceded in qual­i­fiers for the 2018 tour­na­ment in Rus­sia.

“I would have liked that we made fewer mis­takes af­ter tak­ing the lead,” Loew said. “We lost our way.”

Thomas Mueller re­stored the lead min­utes later, run­ning into Schuer­rle’s pass, tak­ing it past the goal­keeper with his right foot and fin­ish­ing into the empty net with his left.

Joshua Kim­mich crossed for Mario Gomez to make it 3-1 with a header be­fore the break.

The home side started the sec­ond half with re­newed vigour, though with­out trou­bling Bernd Leno, play­ing in­stead of the in­jured Manuel Neuer in the Ger­many goal.

Ger­many play­maker Mesut Ozil came on for the fi­nal halfhour, but it was Schuer­rle who had the fi­nal say, blast­ing the ball to the roof of the net from Hec­tor’s pull-back to com­plete the scor­ing in the 81st. AP

It was like a cup game against a team from a lower divi­sion.

AFP PIC

Azer­bai­jan’s Gara Garayev (left) and Ger­many’s An­dre Schuer­rle vie for the ball in their World Cup qual­i­fier on Sun­day. Ger­many won 4-1.

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