Euro 2016: Germany made to work in 2-0 win over Ukraine
Germany were made to work in their opening game but eventually managed to beat Ukraine 2-0 at Lille on Sunday night to top Group C at Euro 2016. A first-half goal from Shkodran Mustafi saw Die Mannschaft take the lead before Bastian Schweinsteiger sealed the win with virtually the last kick of the game.
Germany: Neuer; Howedes, Boateng, Mustafi, Hector; Kroos, Khedira; Muller, Ozil, Draxler; Gotze
Ukraine: Pyatov; Shevchuk, Rakitskiy, Khacheridi, Fedetskiy; Stepanenko, Sydorchuk; Konoplyanka, Kovalenko, Yarmolenko; Zozulya
With Mats Hummels still nursing a calf strain, Joachim Low was forced to pick Shkodran Mustafi in his place to partner Jerome Boateng in defence. Low also opted to go with Mario Gotze to lead the line in a false nine role rather than starting Mario Gomez.
Both sides started the game with a 4-2-3-1 formation as Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira played at the base of Germany’s midfield while Taras Stepanenko and Serhiy Sydorchuk did the same for Ukraine. The Yellow-Blues had Andri Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka start on either side in attack.
Germany had never lost their first game at any Euro tournament, winning six and drawing five before this game. That record remained intact with this win.
Mustafi gives Germany the lead
Ukraine gave the Germans a mighty scare as early as the fifth minute of the game when Konoplyanka gave Manuel Neuer a wake-up call. Artem Fedetskiy managed to beat Jonas Hector on the right flank and put in a cross near the edge of the box which Konoplyanka side-footed first time goalward. The shot was on target before the Bayern Munich goalkeeper, moving the other way, reacted quickly and dived to his left to deny them an early opener.
At the other end, Die Mannschaft really should have made it 1-0 through an unlikely source. Julian Draxler’s cross to the far post was headed back to the centre by Thomas Muller where Hector tried to take a shot with his right foot. Sadly, the effort from his weaker foot only managed to see the shot go off target.
However, they eventually took the lead moments later, albeit from a questionable decision from Martin Atkinson to award a free-kick on the right for a foul on Muller by Yaroslav Rakitisky. Kroos stepped up to take the set-piece and his delivery into the box was perfectly placed for an unmarked Shkodran Mustafi to score with a bullet of a header into the top corner to score his first goal for Germany.
Germany survive Ukrainian onslaught
Neuer came to Germany’s rescue yet again when Yevhen Khacheridi’s powerful header from a corner-kick was palmed away by the goalkeeper. The 30-year-old had made two crucial saves in the first half-hour to keep Germany from conceding but he was beaten on two occasions soon after even though he managed to keep a clean sheet in the first half.
The first attempt from Ukraine saw a well-worked move when Yarmolenko lobbed a pass over the defence towards the onrushing Konopylanka. HIs shot was somehow scuffed towards goal by Boateng before the defender made a last-ditch goal-line clearance. Goal Line Technology correctly ruled ‘No Goal’ as the Ukrainians reacted with utter disbelief.
Another free-kick saw Fedetskiy keep Neuer busy inside the six-yard box before setting up Yarmolenko who put the ball in the back of the net. However, their joy was shortlived as the linesman’s flag went up for a correct offside decision.
Ukraine lose steam in second half
The Germans tried their luck from range in the second half with Draxler taking a right-footed shot that was on target and dipped before it was parried away by Pyatov. Kroos also tried his luck with a 25-yard strike that did beat Pyatov but the Real Madrid midfielder was denied by the woodwork.
Ukraine’s Rakitisky also looked to score with a dangerous curling effort from a free-kick in almost exactly the same position he conceded the free-kick for Germany’s goal. The effort was low and it looked destined to hit the inside of the post before Neuer came to the rescue yet again.
Germany then looked to capitalise on a tiring Ukrainian side. Khedira released Howedes on one counter-attack that saw the defender sending in a cross to Draxler whose header was off target. Moments later, goalscorer Mustafi dispossessed Yarmolenko and looked to initiate another counter that saw Muller force Pyatov into yet another save.
Towards the end of the second half, Ukraine were clearly a spent force with Pyatov fighting a lone battle to keep the scoreline at 1-0. Mesut Ozil, who was accumulating one successful pass after another, had his chance to score when he was released from their own half. The Arsenal playmaker managed to beat the two defenders sprinting back to recover but his right-footed shot was straight at Pyatov who held firm.
Ukraine did have a couple of chances to grab an equaliser late in the second half. One incident, in particular, saw a mix up between Mustafi and Neuer near the edge of the box with the defender’s header bouncing goalward but going just wide much to their relief. The Valencia defender pointed to his ear claiming he could not hear Neuer’s call in the din at the stadium.
But any hopes of a comeback were erased when Bastian Schweinsteiger, who came on as a substitute in the 90th minute for Gotze, scored the second goal to seal all three points. With Ukraine committing men forward, another German counter-attack saw Ozil feed the Manchester United midfielder with a sublime cross which he took on the half-volley to beat Pyatov and take Germany to the top of the group.