Berlin, 11 October 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Germany finally won a game in the Nations League at the seventh attempt on Saturday when they beat an understrength Ukraine 2-1 away, as Spain also won 1-0 against Switzerland.
Luis Enrique’s side, who prevailed thanks to Mikel Oyarzabal’s goal, now top League A Group 4 on seven points from three games with Germany second on five points.
Matthias Ginter and Leon Goretzka scored in Kiev as Joachim Loew finally ended his Nations League hoodoo after Germany finished bottom of their group in the last edition.
But it was again a far from vintage performance with Niklas Suele conceding a spotkick to pile the pressure on in the closing stages.
“We could have won 3-0, 4-0, the penalty was unnecessary,” Loew told ARD.
“What was good was that we didn’t really give Ukraine any other chances.”
Loew changed nine players from Wednesday’s 3-3 friendly draw with Turkey, with five Bayern Munich players coming back into the starting line-up.
Serge Gnabry had an early chance in front of 18,000 socially distanced home fans in Kiev but Ukraine also threatened before Ginter put the visitors ahead on 20 minutes.
The hosts failed to clear the ball and Germany defender Antonio Ruediger, unwanted at club side Chelsea, showed some rare silky skills in the box to find room to cross and Ginter tapped home.
Germany continued to press with Joshua Kimmich and Gnabry going close.
Soon after the break it was 2-0, Ukraine goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan haplessly dropping Lukas Klostermann’s cross right onto the head of Goretzka, who could not miss.
Other than his aberration, Bushchan made several good saves including soon after from Julian Draxler.
Suele’s rash challenge on Roman Yaremchuk allowed Ruslan Malinovskyi to pull one back on 77 minutes but Germany hung on.
Andriy Shevchenko’s Ukraine, hammered 7-1 by France in a friendly on Wednesday, were again weakened by injuries and positive tests for the coronavirus.
Spain, playing at the small Alfredo Di Stefano stadium in Madrid with coronavirus restrictions in force, quickly went ahead on 14 minutes through Oyarzabal.
Switzerland were to blame for their undoing with Granit Xhaka slipping as goalkeeper Yan Sommer tried to play out from the back. Mikel Merino took possession and played in his Real Sociedad team-mate Oyarzabal, who finished well.
The Swiss had their moments and Spain were indebted to goalkeeper David De Gea.
Oyarzabal said: “The legs will be heavy tomorrow but we are prepared to play again soon if that is what the coach wants.”
Germany host Switzerland in Cologne on Tuesday with Spain travelling to Ukraine.
Montenegro and Luxembourg were early victors as matchday three of the Nations League got under way.
Montenegro top League C Group 1 with nine points from nine after Stevan Jovetic and Igor Ivanovic sealed a 2-0 home win over Azerbaijan.
Luxembourg are three points further back in second following Danel Sinani’s double in a 2-0 success at home to bottom side Cyprus, who have no points thus far.
In League D, Gibraltar pulled off a 1-0 win in Liechtenstein in Group 2 to take over alone at the top after two games in their three-team pool. Group 1 leaders the Faroe Islands drew 1-1 with Latvia in Torshavn. Andorra also drew 0-0 with Malta in D1.
The rest of the matchday three fixtures take place on Sunday with world champions France hosting holders Portugal and England facing Belgium among the stand-out matches.
The Nations League, an idea by European governing body UEFA to eliminate most friendlies and have more competitive football, is in its second edition.