Macdara Ferris reports from Windsor Park
It was a case of a job done for Germany on Monday as they got back to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Northern Ireland in Belfast from a game their manager Joachim Low described as 'difficult'.
Low’s men, having won their opening three games in Group C of the EURO 2020 qualifiers, suffered a 4-2 defeat to the Dutch last Friday.
It is a setback that they could have done without as Low looks to rebuild his team after a disastrous World Cup in Russia (eliminated at the Group Stage) and relegation from the top tier of the Europa League more recently.
“It was a very difficult 90 minutes against a Northern Ireland team that played attacking football,” said Low speaking to the press after the win that sent them top of the table level on points with the North.
“Northern Ireland tried to break up our play. In the midfield they found gaps especially in the first half when we gave them too much room. They are strong in the air and we had to adjust to that type of play.
“It was difficult for us to get into the game in the first half when we were pressed. We improved in the second half. We are very pleased to have won the match.”
Germany had chances to go in front late in the first half but really stepped it up after the break creating a myriad of chances with RB Leipzig right back Marcel Halstenberg scoring his first international goal with a well taken volley two minutes after the break.
The player speaking to dfb.de after the game admitted that “it was a tough match. Northern Ireland pressed us for 90 minutes and the atmosphere didn’t make it any easier. My goal sort of flipped the switch for us.
“Fortunately, we were able to get the second goal at the end and wrap up the win, but we ought to have made it 2-0 sooner. We’ve got the three points though and that’s the most important thing.”
The fact that they couldn’t put the result out of reach of the home side until Serge Gnabry scored deep into injury time gave the home side impetus and cheered on by a raucous home crowd they came close on a couple of occasions to beating Maneul Neur.
Low was delighted though with the work ethic of his team as he looks to integrate fresh faces into his team – Gnabry was particularly impressive, getting his ninth goal on only his tenth international appearance.
“We have good potential for the future and it is a matter of working with young players to bring them through. Our players worked hard and ran themselves into the ground. We had no problem with the players in their willingness to play hard.
“They needed strong will power against a hardworking Northern Ireland team who played a physical game. We expected a hard tackling game but we came through it. It was a different tactical game than against Holland and it tested our mental strength as well as physical strength.”