Germany battled to an eventually comfortable 3-1 win against a depleted Ukraine side in Leipzig to go top of their UEFA Nations League group and continue an unbeaten run that began 12 games ago in September last year.
The hosts opened the game positively, albeit wastefully, before an emphatic strike against the run of play from Roman Yaremchuk in the 12th minute halted Germany’s dominance and put them a goal down.
Ukraine’s lead did not last long though thanks to Leroy Sane rifling home an equaliser after Leon Goretzka pickpocketed Oleksandr Zinchenko in midfield and played an inch-perfect through ball for the assist.
Goretzka them added another assist to his tally when he acrobatically controlled Robin Koch’s pass and crossed to Timo Werner so the Chelsea striker could nod home to give Germany the lead.
Werner bagged his second goal of the night after the restart when he was aided by a slight deflection to convert Matthias Ginter’s cross and put the game to bed.
Although Germany now replace Spain at the top of the group on nine points, their match in Sevilla on Tuesday evening will be the ultimate decider of who progresses to the Nations League finals next October.
Do recent results paper over the cracks? As Germany extend their unbeaten run to 12 games - a run that started with a 2-0 win away to Northern Ireland in September 2019 - Joachim Low has still come in for plenty of criticism regarding his tactics and team selections. It does make you wonder whether this Germany team bursting with talent is winning because of their long time manager or in spite of him.
A key selection decision that came into question tonight was deploying Matthias Ginter out of position at right back. Throughout this Nations League campaign Low has struggled to settle on a right-back and before Ginter tonight Lukas Klostermann, Benjamin Henrichs and Thilo Kehrer had all been used there competitively, while Bote Baku made his international debut there a few days ago in a friendly against the Czech Republic as the three usual options are all injured.
Although Low definitely had to improvise to a certain extent, many feel Ginter is wasted at full-back, particularly when some of the other centre back options have looked unconvincing in a team that has not kept a single clean sheet in this season's Nations League.
Timo Werner celebrates
Image credit: Getty Images
MAN OF THE MATCH
Leon Goretzka (Germany): Werner may have got all the glory with his brace but the recently muscular Goretzka was dominant in midfield and a key cog to Germany's victory. Not only did he grab two assists, but both of those assists were elite moments of play. For the first one he instigated the whole move by tackling Zinchenko and there was still plenty of work to do on the counter before his run and subsequent through ball to Sane, whereas for the second assist he did very well to control the pass and get his cross away quickly before being closed down. Those were reflective of his good passing throughout the whole game and although he did have chances to score himself, that does not take away from what was still an impressive all-round performance for the Bayern Munich midfielder.
Germany: Neuer 6, Koch 6, Rudiger 6, Sule 7, Ginter 7, Max 8, Goretzka 8, Gundogan 7, Gnabry 6, Sane 8, Werner 8...Subs: Brandt 6, Waldschmidt N/A
Ukraine: Pyatov 6, Matviyenko 6, Zabarnyi 5, Konoplia 5, Sobol 5, Zinchenko 6, Stepanenko 6, Malinovsky 6, Zubkov 7, Marlos 6, Yaremchuk 7...Subs: Makarenko 5, Mykhaylichenko 6, Moraes 6, Kharatin N/A
2' - CHANCE!! Big early opportunity for the hosts as Ginter switches it to his opposite wing-back Max who's in lots of space in the box. He cuts it back to Goretzka and the shot sails miles over the bar.
12' - GOAL! Germany 0-1 Ukraine (Yaremchuk). Yaremchuk and Ukraine halt Germany's strong start to the game with an emphatic finish inside the box! The visitors pass the ball beautifully to make their way into the box but it then gets a bit scrappy with Max and Koch both having chances to get the ball back and clear it way. It rolls to Yaremchuk and he somehow finds the time and space to nestle the ball in the back of the net!
23' - GOAL! Germany 1-1 Ukraine (Sane). Zinchenko is pickpocketed in midfield and Germany have tonnes of space to run into on the counter attack. Goretzka threads through Sane with a pinpoint pass and he cuts inside to rifle home the equaliser!
33' - GOAL! Germany 2-1 Ukraine (Werner). Germany take the lead with a well-worked goal! Koch lofts a pass beyond Ukraine's back line to Goretzka, who has been unplayable so far this evening. He manages to acrobatically control the ball and cross it to Werner on the move and the Chelsea striker nods in from close range to make it 2-1.
51' - OFF THE POST!! Malinovsky plays a nice pass to Zinchenko on the edge of the area. The Man City midfielder spins and shoots on his left and it's deflected onto the post! Neuer would have been beaten too...
64' - GOAL! Germany 3-1 Ukraine (Werner). Gundogan charges forward from midfield and sets Ginter free on the right. He crosses it low to Werner who slots a slightly deflected effort into the corner for his second goal of the night and Germany's 3rd!
76' - WHAT A STRIKE!! How did that not go in?! Marlos has flattered to deceive a lot this evening, finding good positions but lacking an end product. That very nearly looked set to change just then as he tries to curl his shot into the top left-hand corner and it ricochets wide off the woodwork.
82' - UKRAINE HIT THE WOODWORK AGAIN!! For the third time tonight Ukraine are denied by the post! Moraes produces a brilliant strike on the run but Koch just about manages to get to it and prevent the goal.