Mats Hummels’ late header snatched a 2-1 win for Germany over Czech Republic as the world champions extended their perfect record in Group C of World Cup qualifying.
Vladimir Darida’s wondergoal appeared to have given Czech Republic a boost in their attempt to reach the 2018 World Cup when his brilliant strike picked out the top corner from 25 yards.
But the world champions had other ideas and made it seven wins out of seven thanks to Hummels powering in a header from a flighted Toni Kroos free-kick with only three minutes remaining at the Eden Arena on Friday.
RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner earned a starting berth with three goals in four appearances at the Confederations Cup and he justified his selection in attack almost immediately.
Timo Werner pic.twitter.com/u8ghLlxMl6
— #WCQ (@FIFAWorldCup) September 1, 2017
After only three minutes, Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil sent Werner clear with a precise pass and the forward took his shot early to beat Tomas Vaclik in the bottom-left corner.
Darida’s stunning drive swerved viciously into Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s top-right corner to draw the hosts level, but Hummels’ late header ensured Germany stay five points clear at the top of the group, with Karel Jarolim’s side left seven points adrift of second-placed Northern Ireland, who won 3-0 away to San Marino.
Germany took the lead in just the fourth minute, scoring their fastest goal since May 2013.
Ozil sliced open the Czech defence with a trademark throughball with the outside of his boot that Werner finished off well.
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) September 1, 2017
Borussia Monchengladbach forward Lars Stindl was Werner’s attacking partner and he almost added a second after 19 minutes only to see his low shot blocked by Vaclik’s legs.
The home side were struggling to create a chance of note, but Michal Krmencik sent an opportunistic lob over the crossbar when Ter Stegen, deputising for Manuel Neuer, was caught off his line.
And on the stroke of half-time, the hosts should have levelled when a fine team move saw Darida tee up Theodor Gebre Selassie only for the right-back to slice his effort horribly.
Stindl tested Vaclik again shortly after the restart but the goalkeeper kept Czech Republic in the game with another fine block.
Ter Stegen remained mostly untested at the other end, however, the Barcelona goalkeeper easily saving from Jakub Jankto after 55 minutes.
Germany had beaten Czech Republic 3-0 in Hamburg earlier in the pool phase, but Joachim Low’s men rarely looked likely to extend their advantage in Prague and their lack of intensity came back to cost them.
There appeared to be little on for the midfielder when Jankto laid the ball off to Darida 25 yards out, but the Hertha Berlin man spied an opportunity.
Taking a touch to set himself, Darida cut across the ball with a stunning long-range effort that left Ter Stegen grasping at thin air as he helplessly dived high to his left.
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) September 1, 2017
Germany reacted strongly, but it was a set-piece that provided their winning goal as time was running out.
Kroos floated an inviting free-kick into the box and Hummels got up highest to power in a header that ensures Germany move a step closer to World Cup qualification ahead of Monday’s home game against Norway.
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