Germany show the occasional sign of weakness but still clinch victory
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