Northern Ireland 0-2 Germany: Halstenberg stunner breaks Windsor Park resistance

Germany claimed a 2-0 win at Northern Ireland on Monday that keeps a three-way scrap in Euro 2020 qualifying Group C very much alive.

Germany celebrates Marcel Halstenberg's goal against Northern Ireland on Monday.

Germany celebrates Marcel Halstenberg's goal against Northern Ireland on Monday.   -  Getty Images

A fine strike from Marcel Halstenberg ended Northern Ireland's spirited resistance and helped Germany to a much-needed 2-0 win in Euro 2020 qualifying on Monday.

Having been beaten 4-2 at home by Netherlands last Friday, another defeat at Windsor Park would have left Joachim Low's side six points behind Northern Ireland at the top of Group C after five matches.

The 2014 World Cup winner was frustrated in the first half as Michael O'Neill's side caused real problems with some high pressing and strong defending, while Manuel Neuer had to make an important save from Conor Washington.

However, Halstenberg's first international goal three minutes into the second half and Serge Gnabry's late strike made the difference, as Germany breathed new life into its qualification campaign.

There have been calls for Neuer to be dropped for Marc-Andre ter Stegen, but the Bayern Munich keeper justified his place in the team with a fine one-on-one save from Washington.

Germany was being pressed into mistakes in the early stages but began to recover its poise, and Northern Ireland was twice fortunate to escape shouts for handball in the box from Jonny Evans and Craig Cathcart.

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Jonathan Tah - on for the injured Matthias Ginter - did enough to block when it seemed certain Washington would turn a loose ball in, and Bailey Peacock-Farrell reacted moments later to deny Timo Werner from six yards.

Peacock-Farrell saved brilliantly to deny Lukas Klostermann as Germany started the second half well, but the breakthrough came barely a minute later, as Halstenberg's brilliant half-volley from 18 yards out left the Burnley keeper with no chance.

Werner was denied again by Peacock-Farrell and, as a tiring Northern Ireland made a late push, Gnabry ran onto Kai Havertz's throughball and drilled a clever reverse finish past Peacock-Farrell from his left-hand post.

What does it mean? Group C scrap is hotting up

Germany really needed a result here after its defeat to Netherlands last time out, and its win puts it level with Northern Ireland on 12 points at the top of the table.

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Ronald Koeman's side is three points further back but, with a game in hand to come next month, it is very much part of this intriguing three-way battle.

Fantastic Peacock-Farrell

He might not have played a minute for Burnley, but the 22-year-old was exemplary for his country and kept it in the game as Germany threatened to take control.

Werner invisible

Werner had the worst passing accuracy on his team, underlining how ineffective he was in linking the attack, and he failed to make the most of a clear-cut opening before the break.

 

Key Opta facts

- Germany has won three consecutive away games for the first time since September 2015, having lost its previous three in a row.

- Having lost just two of O’Neill’s first 14 competitive meetings at home (P14 W8 D4 L2), Northern Ireland has suffered five defeats in its last seven such games (P7 W2 D0 L5).

- Northern Ireland has failed to score at home for the first time in its last eight international matches, last doing so in a 1-0 defeat to Switzerland in November 2017.

- Halstenberg scored his first ever goal for Germany, on his fourth appearance. He has been involved in a goal in each of his last two games for his country (one goal, one assist).

- Northern Ireland’s Steven Davis earned his 113th cap for his country tonight – only one other player in the country’s history has ever made more appearances (Pat Jennings, 119).

- Gnabry has scored five goals in his five international appearances in 2019, more than any other German player this year.

What's next?

Germany hosts a friendly against Argentina on October 9 before its next Euro 2020 qualifier away to Estonia four days later. Next up for Northern Ireland is a potentially pivotal trip to Netherlands on October 10.

- Low relieved as new-look Germany come through Northern Ireland test -

Germany head coach Joachim Low was relieved to claim a 2-0 win over a "very difficult" Northern Ireland in Euro 2020 qualifying at Windsor Park.

Low said he was impressed with Northern Ireland's performance and was happy to see the way his players adapted their performance to nullify the threat.

"It was a very difficult 90 minutes against a Northern Ireland team that played very attacking football," he told a news conference.

"In the first half, it was very difficult for us because we were pressed very hard. We improved in the second half but it was a very difficult game and we're pleased to have won the match.

"It's a team that hasn't played together and they must learn to play themselves into form and get to know each other's style. We'll be looking at each stage of our game as we move forward.

"They tried to break up our play and they found gaps, especially in the first half. After half-time, Northern Ireland played with more tempo and speed but we responded. In the first half, we gave them too much room. They're strong in the air and we have to adjust our game to this style of play.

"I think we have good potential for the future and it's about working with this team to bring them through."

Meanwhile, Michael O'Neill praised his players for a "magnificent effort" against Germany but accepted Northern Ireland will see their 2-0 defeat as a missed opportunity.

"They gave everything they had," he told Sky Sports. "In the first half they were magnificent, should have been ahead, and when we reflect on the game it was a missed opportunity.

"We were punished at the beginning of the second half. Maybe Germany lifted a gear as well and it's a magnificent goal from the full-back. To be fair to the lads, they came again, we created a couple of chances, but it wasn't to be.

"We managed to stop them building the game and got joy off pressing and winning the ball higher up the pitch. It's very difficult to do that against this level of opposition. I think they had words in their own dressing room at half-time and they have intelligent game players.

"It's a massive jump for a lot of our players to play at this level. I'm proud of what they gave. We have to give a level of performance against the Netherlands and Germany now and, if we get the chance to go ahead, we have to take it."

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