Germany kicked off their Euro 2012 campaign in efficient fashion, grinding out a 1-0 win over Portugal on Saturday.
Mario Gomez’s pinpoint header after 72 minutes earned the beaten 2008 finalists to a crucial three points, and equal top of Group B with Denmark after their tournament opener.
The match was certainly not one for the purists, with clear-cut chances hard to come by. Both sides gave a disciplined, if not dynamic performance on the field.
Neither side were in any hurry to take control early, though Cristiano Ronaldo did cause a few hearts to flutter when he flashed a low centre across the face of goal.
With just under a quarter of an hour gone, Germany keeper Manuel Neuer was floored by a dreadful late challenge from Helder Postiga, who was perhaps fortunate to escape his briefing with referee Stephane Lannoy with only a yellow card.
Germany, despite boasting nearly two-thirds of possession throughout the opening period, could muster nothing more than a few half-chances, with Lukas Podolski guilty of sending a pair of them off target.
Muller lashed across goal after a hurried attack by the Germans moments before Holger Badstuber was booked for clipping Nani’s heels.
In fact, the best opening of the half fell to Portugal minutes before the break. Pepe attacked a rebound from a corner, but his side-footed attempt bounced off the crossbar and onto the goalline.
The match remained finely poised in the second half, with Germany just about able to claim the upper hand, though with little improvement in front of goal.
The match needed a spark, and Germany coach Loew seemed set to provide one by readying Klose on the sidelines with 72 minutes gone, with the departure of Gomez appearing imminent.
But no substitution was made because after Boateng floated in a cross from the right towards Gomez, the Bayern striker climbed above Pepe to head Germany into the lead.
The 26-year-old soon came within inches of adding another, just failing to get a toe on Muller’s centre, before belatedly making way for Klose 10 minutes from time.
That sparked a late surge for Portugal, with Nani twice coming close to bringing them back into the game, one of his efforts being an audacious 35-yard cross-shot that clipped off the woodwork.
Portugal had their best chance of the match two minutes before the end, but Neuer did fantastically well to spread himself and block Nelson Oliveira from point blank range.
Next up for Germany is a clash against fellow favourites Netherlands, while Portugal square off against Denmark, with both matches taking place on Wednesday.
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