Defensively suspect Germany eventually see off Ukraine
Germany 2 0 Ukraine
Published 12/06/2016 | 22:12
World champions Germany began their Euro 2016 campaign with a 2-0 victory over Ukraine.
Shkodran Mustafi's 19th-minute header and Bastian Schweinsteiger's stoppage-time breakaway ensured Joachim Low's side got off to a winning start at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille.
Yet Germany did not have things all their own way and Group C rivals Poland and Northern Ireland will have been heartened by some of their defending, particularly from set-pieces.
They were certainly grateful to goalkeeper Manuel Neuer for some fine first-half saves and a spectacular goal-line clearance from Jerome Boateng as Ukraine proved to be dangerous opponents.
Neuer was called into action after just five minutes when he dived at full stretch to keep out a fierce first-time shot from Yevhen Konoplyanka.
Germany should have taken a 13th-minute lead when Julian Draxler's cross was headed back towards the penalty spot by Thomas Muller, but Jonas Hector's standing foot slipped as he shaped to shoot and the ball disappeared into the stand.
However, six minutes later their pressure told when Toni Kroos swung in a free-kick from the right and defender Mustafi, a reported target for Liverpool who was previously at Everton but never made a Premier League appearance, powered his header into the top corner.
They almost doubled their advantage when a superb pass over the top from the impressive Kroos was brought down by Sami Khedira, who then fired his shot too close to Ukraine keeper Andrei Pyatov.
But while they looked shaky at the back, Ukraine continued to threaten at the other end with Neuer having to tip Yevhen Khacheridi's point-blank header over the crossbar.
Boateng then had to scramble back to acrobatically clear his own deflection from Konoplyanka's cross off the line, before Andriy Yarmolenko had a goal disallowed for offside as Ukraine finished the first half strongly.
Germany went in search of a killer second goal after the break and a 30-yard Kroos drive clipped the angle of the goal.
Benedikt Howedes then crossed from the right but Draxler was unable to keep his header down after sneaking in ahead of his marker.
Pyatov denied Khedira with a diving save and comfortably dealt with a deflected effort from Mario Gotze, while substitute Andre Schurrle scuffed a good chance wide.
German hearts were in their mouths three minutes from time when Mustafi's back-header flew over Neuer, but the ball bounced out of the reach of Ukraine sub Yevhen Seleznyov.
And three minutes into stoppage time Germany broke from a Ukraine corner and Mesut Ozil's cross was converted by substitute Schweinsteiger to seal a comfortable, if not entirely convincing, victory.