Germany Holds On To Beat Ukraine For 1st Nations League Win
Germany's Antonio Rudiger, left, and Ukraine's Ruslan Malinovskyi challenge for the ball during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Ukraine and Germany at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Oct.10, 2020. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
KYIV, Ukraine: Germany finally won a Nations League game at the seventh attempt on Saturday, holding on to beat Ukraine 2-1 to ease the pressure growing on coach Joachim Lw.
Defender Matthias Ginter and midfielder Leon Gortezka scored to give Lws team its first win in Group 4 of League A, its first of the year, and coming after three games including the friendly against Turkey in which it squandered leads to draw.
A late penalty from Ruslan Malinovskyi ensured another nervy ending, but a Ukraine side depleted by coronavirus cases and injuries was unable to draw level. Andriy Shevchenkos side was thrashed by France 7-1 in their friendly on Wednesday.
After drawing with Turkey 3-3 in Cologne the same day, Lw restored his regular players in Kyiv, building the team around the Bayern Munich block of Manuel Neuer, Niklas Sle, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry. Leipzigs Lukas Klostermann and Marcel Halstenberg, and Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos also returned to the starting lineup.
None of them were involved in the opening goal, however, down to good work from defender Antonio Rdiger, who beat his marker and crossed low for Ginter to convert at the far post in the 20th minute. Gnabry tried a back-heel but failed to connect fully before the ball reached Ginter.
It was far from convincing from the visitors, who remained prone to mistakes under pressure from the home side.
A miscued back-pass from Ginter would likely have been punished by Shevchenko in his prime, but the Milan great, now the Ukraine coach, could urge his makeshift team only from the sideline.
Heorhiy Bushchan produced a fine save to stop a dipping shot from Kimmich, then a header from Gnabry, though Germanys mistakes in buildup play continued.
A mistake from Bushchan gifted the visitors their second goal in the 49th. Klostermanns cross was simple for the goalkeeper to gather, but he dropped the ball for the grateful Goretzka to head in.
Sle conceded a penalty with a mistimed challenge on Roman Yaremchuk, and Malinovskyi converted from the spot to give the hosts hope in the 77th.
This time, Germany held on.
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