Soccer - Germany's Podolski crowns farewell with stunning winner over England
DORTMUND (Reuters) - Germany forward Lukas Podolski capped his international swan song with a sensational goal to give the world champions a 1-0 victory over England in a friendly on Wednesday.
Podolski, who captained the team for the first time from the start, could not have hoped for a more fitting finale to his 13-year Germany career, as he thundered in the winner in the 69th minute to take his goal tally to 49 in 130 international matches.
The 31-year-old's goal ensured an enterprising England suffered a bitter defeat having looked sharper than their hosts for much of the game and hit the woodwork in the first half.
England, who top World Cup qualifying Group F, next host Lithuania at Wembley on Sunday while Germany, five points clear at the top of Group C travel to Azerbaijan.
Germany's Sami Khedira was ruled out hours before the game, joining a long list of absentees, including Manuel Neuer, Julian Draxler, Mario Gomez and Mesut Ozil, with coach Joachim Loew forced to make changes.
With youngsters Timo Werner, Julian Weigl, Julian Brandt and Leroy Sane starting, the Germans struggled to find their feet and England had three good chances to open the scoring through Jamie Vardy and Michael Keane, on his international debut.
Their biggest scoring opportunity came after 30 minutes when Adam Lallana took advantage of a Joshua Kimmich mistake to charge through but, with only Marc Andre ter Stegen to beat, his low, angled shot bounced off the post.
The keeper came to Germany's rescue four minutes before halftime as he blocked a Dele Alli shot, with England looking promising in Gareth Southgate's first game in charge since being appointed full-time manager in November after a four-match interim period.
The coach deployed an experimental three-man defence for the first time and it worked wonders for more than an hour, as the Germans tried their luck with long-range shots with little success.
The visitors could not maintain their pressing game and pace into the second half before Podolski drilled home a shot from 25 metres out with his famed left foot to give keeper Joe Hart no chance.
The Germans, who set a national record with their seventh consecutive clean sheet, also gained revenge for a 3-2 loss to England almost a year ago to the day.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Toby Davis)