Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy scored a goal apiece as the battle for an England starting berth at Euro 2016 intensified, but it was Eric Dier who netted the winner in a thrilling 3-2 victory over Germany on Saturday.
Kane and Vardy are seemingly vying with Wayne Rooney for the out-and-out striker role in Roy Hodgson’s starting XI in France and they combined to haul England back from two goals down in Berlin, before Tottenham midfielder Dier finished the job.
Having seen a Mario Gomez goal ruled out in controversial circumstances, Germany took the lead through Toni Kroos in the 43rd minute, although the opener owed a lot to an injury to England goalkeeper Jack Butland.
Gomez made it 2-0 with a headed effort just short of the hour mark, before Kane halved the deficit with an excellent finish.
But Vardy – on for Danny Welbeck as Hodgson altered the shape of his side – showed some of the magic that has seen him inspire Leicester City to the top of the Premier League when he applied a wonderful flick to a Nathaniel Clyne cross to beat helpless goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and open his international account.
With 90 minutes having already elapsed and the match heading for a draw, Dier climbed to head home his first England goal from a Jordan Henderson corner and send the travelling supporters into raptures.
Danny Rose made his debut as one of four Tottenham players included by Hodgson and, while Germany – without injured captain Bastian Schweinsteiger – boasted 311 more caps than their visitors, England were able to limit the threat of Joachim Low’s side early on.
For all the endeavour of both teams, goalscoring opportunities proved hard to come by, but Gomez had the ball in the back of the net after 27 minutes.
The on-loan Besiktas striker was played in behind the England defence and fired across Butland into the bottom left-hand corner, but he was flagged for offside.
Replays suggested Gomez had every right to feel aggrieved by the decision, although they did take the lead two minutes before half-time.
Butland – having looked uncomfortable moments earlier – sent a reckless clearance straight to a German shirt and the goalkeeper was eventually beaten at his near-post by a long-range drive from Kroos.
Stoke City’s Butland was left punching the turf in frustration before leaving the field on a stretcher to be replaced by Fraser Forster.
England had looked the brighter for long spells in the first half, albeit without testing Neuer, but Forster had to be alert to prevent Germany from opening up a two-goal advantage shortly after the interval.
The Borussia Dortmund attacker’s bending free-kick evaded everyone in the box and forced Forster to tip over his crossbar.
England started to show signs of fighting their way back into the tie and Neuer got down well to keep out a Dele Alli daisy-cutter before Henderson saw an effort deflected over from a Danny Welbeck cutback.
But it was Germany who struck next through Gomez. Sami Khedira lifted the ball into the penalty area and Gomez climbed highest to head back across Forster to make up for his earlier disallowed effort.
Germany’s cushion lasted just four minutes, though, as Kane turned brilliantly on the edge of the box following a corner and tucked the ball inside the left-hand post with Neuer beaten.
And Vardy drew his side level 16 minutes from time. Clyne darted down the right and played the ball into the box for the Leicester striker, whose stylish finish deservedly pulled England level.
The impressive Alli appeared to have squandered a golden opportunity to seal the victory when he fired over, but Dier popped up in stoppage time to settle it in the visitors’ favour.
Key Opta Stats:
– England have lost just one of their last 18 internationals (W14 D3).
– Harry Kane scored his first goal when starting for England; his previous three all came as a substitute.
– England have now failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last seven games against Germany.
– Germany scored with both of their shots on target.
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