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Germany 2 Georgia 1: Kruse and Neuer save world champions to seal qualification

Germany had Max Kruse and Manuel Neuer to thank as they edged through to Euro 2016 in their final qualifier after a nervous 2-1 win over Georgia in Leipzig on Sunday.

The world champions, who needed just a point to be certain of a place in next year’s showpiece, missed numerous opportunities to open the scoring in the first half, with Marco Reus the worst culprit in front of goal. 

Thomas Muller appeared to have settled nerves with a penalty early in the second half, only for Jaba Kankava to equalise within four minutes.

Neuer then proved his quality with a pair of stunning saves to prevent Georgia from going ahead, before substitute Kruse settled a tense win by scoring within three minutes of coming on.

The narrow victory means Germany qualify for the tournament as Group D winners, but Joachim Low’s men will know they have to be more clinical in front of goal if they are to add the European crown to their world title.

The hosts made their intent known within two minutes when Muller fired in an early shot from the edge of the box that was saved by Nukri Revishvili, before Toni Kroos flashed a volley wide.

The Real Madrid midfielder almost set up Muller with a cleverly-worked free-kick, but the Bayern Munich star’s stretching effort was just off target.

Low’s side continued to attack at pace and Ilkay Gundogan forced Revishvili into a low stop after a neat one-two with Muller. Reus then drew an even better diving stop from the Georgia goalkeeper with a low goal-bound effort.

It was all one-way traffic and Reus missed an absolute sitter with Germany’s next chance, somehow blazing over from close range after being sent clean through by a brilliant Muller flick.

Despite Germany’s dominance, the fragility of their status in the group was emphasised when Georgia came close to scoring on the break. Valeri Kazaishvili beat Mats Hummels and squared for Tornike Okriashvili, who forced Neuer into an excellent reflex save.

The world champions were soon back on the front foot, but Reus missed another good chance, shooting wide with his left foot after being played in by Gundogan.

The tension was temporarily lifted early in the second half when Germany won a penalty. Ozil drew a foul from Kankava in the corner of the box and Muller calmly stepped up to send Revishvili the wrong way from the resulting spot-kick.

Georgia then enjoyed their best period of the match, scoring an equaliser and forcing Neuer to make his second and third brilliant saves of the night. First, Nika Kvekveskiri sent a long-range effort towards the top corner and only a superb one-handed save from the keeper denied him.

From the resulting corner, the visitors ensured Germany’s lead had lasted just four minutes. After they had worked a short corner into the box, Germany only half-cleared and were punished when Kankava lashed in an impressive volley, immediately making up for his mistake at the other end.

Georgia almost took the lead when Kazaishvili shot wide after an excellent solo run, before Neuer had to make a brilliant save to push Okriashvili’s shot over from point-blank range.

Germany finally kicked back into life following those scares and Reus saw a shot pushed past the post by Revishvili with 20 minutes remaining.

Low replaced the ineffective Andre Schurrle – who had replaced the injured Mario Gotze in the starting line-up – with Kruse and the substitute made a stunning impact.

With 11 minutes remaining, Ozil found Kruse in the area and the Wolfsburg forward finished into the bottom corner with an excellent first-time finish.

Kroos had a late effort pushed wide by Revishvili as Germany held on to seal their ticket to France.

Sun 11 Oct, 2015
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