Jamie Vardy score breathtaking flicked goal as England battle from behind to beat Germany
Eric Dier completed a dramatic fightback for England with a stoppage time winner against Germany in Berlin after the world champions had led 2-0 with an hour played in the Olympic Stadium.
Dier, the Tottenham midfielder, beat goalkeeper Manuel Neuer with a towering header from a ninety-first minute corner to leave the Germans, who had led trough Toni Kroos and Mario Gomez, stunned.
An injury sustained by Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland when conceding Kroos’s opener will be a source of concern for Roy Hodgson, but the manner of his team’s performance in the Olympiastadion will leave the England manager believing his players can enjoy a successful tournament at Euro 2016.
Dier’s header, after Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy had scored with stunning goals, ensured a famous victory over a team crown world champions less than two years ago.
England took to the field in the Olympiastadion attempting to protect a proud record of having never lost in the German capital – winning six and drawing two of their previous visits to Berlin.
And the Germans, despite their dominance over England at major tournaments since 1966, were also looking to end a two-game losing sequence on home turf against their old rival following a 2-1 defeat in November 2008 and the 5-1 loss in Munich seven years earlier.
But while both nations were without injured key players, most notably the respective captains Bastian Schweinsteiger and Wayne Rooney, the unfamiliar look of the two teams in their gaudy away strips did little to diminish the battle for superiority on the pitch.
With Germany playing in a strange shade of green and England wearing a red-and-blue kit which appeared as though it had been designed for a Captain America comic strip, it was difficult to imagine how the marketing gurus could have done more to take away the unique feel of a Germany-England encounter.
England’s emerging team ensured this game would possess the edge of previous meetings, though, by testing the Germans in the first-half and displaying the confidence and bravery of youth.
Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Danny Rose may have been faced with a team of world champions, but Alli in particular was determined to take the game to a German midfield including the likes of Sami Khedira, Marco Reus and Toni Kroos.
The Tottenham teenager found himself in the space to take two chances before twenty minutes had elapsed, but neither a header from Gary Cahill’s long pass or a shot from Danny Welbeck’s lay-off was able to trouble Manuel Neuer in the Germany goal.
England, playing a 4-3-3 formation, were able to cause problems for the Germans in defensive positions, with Kane and Welbeck both linking well and showing the signs of a developing partnership.
But once Gomez saw a goal harshly ruled out for offside on 27 minutes, the Germans stepped up their game and began to turn the screw on England.
The opening goal was a bad one for Butland to concede, though, even accounting for the injury that had affected him since jarring his right knee when catching the ball moments earlier.
Kroos had been allowed to run unchecked towards goal from midfield, leaving the Real Madrid midfielder to shoot from 25 yards on 43 minutes.
Butland was slow to react and Kroos’s effort beat him easily at the near post, signalling the goalkeeper’s final involvement before he was stretched off to be replaced by Fraser Forster.
Forster, making his first England appearance since November 2014, was tested early in the second-half, doing well to tip over a Reus free-kick before Germany defender Jonas Hector denied Jordan Henderson a 55th minute equaliser with a crucial block from the Liverpool midfielder.
But moments after Henderson’s missed chance, Gomez doubled the Germans’ lead with a well-executed header from Khedira’s lofted pass, having escaped the attentions of Cahill and Nathaniel Clyne to head in from six yards.
This was now a real test for Hodgson’s young team, but they responded well rather than allow the Germans to dominate.
And Kane reduced the deficit with a stunning goal on 61 minutes when, after receiving the ball with his back to goal, he turned Mesut Özil easily before beating Neuer with a right-foot shot into the far corner.
England chased an equaliser, with Welbeck forcing a Neuer to save with his legs before Vardy, a replacement for the Arsenal forward, made it 2-2 with his first international goal on 74 minutes
It was one the Leicester forward will never forget, a back-heel flick at the near post from Clyne’s cross which emphasised the confidence he has developed with the Premier League leaders this season.
Vardy almost made a winner for Alli, only for the midfielder to shoot over from six yards, but Dier’s goal claimed the win anyway.
England must now ensure that they take the positives, but avoid the pitfalls of believing that this victory will lead to greater glory in France.
Independent News Service