Ger­many show the oc­ca­sional sign of weak­ness but still clinch vic­tory

The Herald - Herald Sport - - EURO 2016 -

WORLD cham­pi­ons Ger­many be­gan their Euro 2016 cam­paign with a 2-0 vic­tory over Ukraine.

Shkodran Mustafi’s 19th-minute header and Bas­tian Sch­we­in­steiger’s stop­page-time break­away en­sured Joachim Loew’s side got off to a win­ning start at the Stade Pierre-Mau­roy in Lille.

Yet Ger­many did not have things all their own way and Group C ri­vals Poland and North­ern Ire­land will have been heart­ened by some of their de­fend­ing, par­tic­u­larly from set-pieces.

They were cer­tainly grate­ful to goal­keeper Manuel Neuer for some fine first-half saves and a spec­tac­u­lar goalline clear­ance from Jerome Boateng as Ukraine proved to be dan­ger­ous.

Neuer was called into ac­tion af­ter just five min­utes when he dived at full stretch to keep out a fierce first-time shot from Yevhen Kono­plyanka.

Ger­many should have taken a 13th-minute lead when Ju­lian Draxler’s cross was headed back to­wards the penalty spot by Thomas Muller, but Jonas Hec­tor’s stand­ing foot slipped as he shaped to shoot and the ball dis­ap­peared into the stand.

How­ever, six min­utes later their pres­sure told when Toni Kroos swung in a free-kick from the right and de­fender Mustafi, a re­ported tar­get for Liver­pool who was pre­vi­ously at Ever­ton but never made a Pre­mier League ap­pear­ance, pow­ered his header into the top cor­ner.

But while they looked shaky at the back, Ukraine con­tin­ued to threaten at the other end with Neuer hav­ing to tip Yevhen Khacheridi’s point-blank header over the cross­bar.

Boateng then had to scram­ble back to ac­ro­bat­i­cally clear his own de­flec­tion from Kono­plyanka’s cross off the line, be­fore An­driy Yar­molenko had a goal dis­al­lowed for off­side.

Ger­man hearts were in their mouths three min­utes from time when Mustafi’s back-header flew over Neuer, but the ball bounced out of the reach of Ukraine sub Yevhen Seleznyov.

But three min­utes into stop­page time a goal from sub­sti­tute Sch­we­in­steiger sealed a not en­tirely con­vinc­ing win.

CLINCHER: Sch­we­in­steiger cel­e­brates

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