Germany cruises to 2-0 win over Northern Ireland

Julian Draxler's 13th minute strike put the team ahead and Sami Khedira added another goal as it quickly killed off the game for its third win in three qualifiers.

Germany Football, Germany v Northern Ireland, World Cup qualifier

Germany players celebrate a goal against Northern Ireland on Tuesday.   -  AP

Ruthless Germany made it three wins from three World Cup qualifiers with a 2-0 victory over spirited Northern Ireland on Tuesday to stay top of its group.

First-half goals by Julian Draxler and Sami Khedira sealed the win in Hanover and the world champion is yet to concede a goal in its qualifiers for Russia 2018.

"Just like in our last game we played with a lot of concentration and aggression," said Khedira.

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"All in all, we can be happy, especially with the first half. There's room for improvement, but it was a good result."

Germany has lost just two of 85 World Cup qualifiers in its proud history and was in no mood to give the Northern Irish a first win on German soil for 33 years. With nine qualifying points to its credit, the Germans will finish the year with a perfect record if they next beat minnows San Marino, ranked 198 places below them, away on November 11.

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The same night, third-placed Northern Ireland hosts Azerbaijan, which is second in Group C, in a crunch qualifier. Germany's head coach Joachim Loew started with the same side which beat the Czech Republic 3-0 in Hamburg on Saturday.

His opposite number Michael O'Neill made three changes to the side which beat 10-man San Marino 4-0 in Belfast, but Kyle Lafferty, who netted twice on Saturday, started again on the bench.

Having been restricted to a 1-0 win when the sides last met, in the group stages of EURO 2016, the Germans raced into a 2-0 lead with less than 20 minutes gone.

Mario Goetze's header tested Irish goalkeeper Michael McGovern early on and Germany took the lead on 13 minutes.

Thomas Mueller laid the ball off for Draxler, who rifled his shot into the bottom right-hand corner.

Despite packing bodies into the penalty area, the Irish defence was again beaten on 17 minutes when Mesut Ozil's cross was headed on by Mats Hummels. Khedira used his head to nudge the ball over the line to make it 2-0, but the goals spurred Northern Ireland into action.

Attacking midfielder Jamie Ward managed a weak shot at goalkeeper Manuel Neuer on a rare foray into the German half. And a good save from McGovern denied Joshua Kimmich.

Goetze then had the ball in the net when he flicked Mueller's pass into the net, but the goal was flagged for offside. With half-time approaching Jerome Boateng fouled Ward just outside the area, but Oliver Norwood blasted the free-kick over the bar on 42 minutes.

Loew brought on Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan for Ozil in the attacking midfield role, which seemed to disrupt the Germans' rhythm.

The Irish dug in for the second-half as Germany struggled to make headway through the visiting team's defence.

The tempo dropped and good work from McGovern thwarted several German attacks. Lafferty, who has scored nine goals in 11 qualifiers, came on for the final 15 minutes, but the German defence was rarely troubled.

Azerbaijan extends unbeaten run, Poland overcomes Armenia

Azerbaijan extended its undefeated run with a hard-fought point in a goalless draw in the Czech Republic, Robert Prosinecki's team a surprise second in the standings following its shock defeat of Norway at the weekend.

The Norwegians were in danger of another highly embarrassing result at home to San Marino before three goals in the final 13 minutes eased tensions in Oslo as the host won 4-1.

Robert Lewandowski snatched a dramatic stoppage-time winner as Poland overcame 10-man Armenia 2-1 in Warsaw.

Hrayr Mkoyan's own goal just after the break gifted Poland the lead, but Armenia, which played a man down for an hour after the dismissal of Gael Andonian, levelled two minutes later through Marcos Pizzelli.

However, Lewandowski scored for the eighth straight qualifier as he headed in deep into injury time to keep Poland level on points with Group E leaders Montenegro, 1-0 winners in Denmark.

Romania is two points off the pace following a 0-0 draw with Kazakhstan in Astana.

European qualifying for the 2018 World Cup on Tuesday:

Group C

At Ostrava, Czech Republic: Czech Republic 0 Azerbaijan 0

At Hanover, Germany: Germany 2 (Draxler 13, Khedira 17) Northern Ireland 0

At Oslo: Norway 4 (Simoncini 11-o.g., Diomande 77, Samuelsen 82, King 83) San Marino 1 (Stefanelli 54)

Group E

At Copenhagen: Denmark 0 Montenegro 1 (Beciraj 32)

At Warsaw: Poland 2 (Mkoyan 48-o.g., Lewandowski 90+5) Armenia 1 (Pizzelli 50)

At Astana: Kazakhstan 0 Romania 0

Group F

At Trnava, Slovakia: Slovakia 3 (Mak 18, 56, Nemec 68) Scotland 0

At Vilnius: Lithuania 2 (Cernych 76, Novikovas 84-pen) Malta 0

At Ljubljana: Slovenia 0 England 0

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