Functional, with a flash of flair: Germany dispose of battling Belarus

It is a warm and dry evening in the compact Borisov Arena, the home of Belarussian champions BATE. Away from the capital Minsk, this is clearly at attempt by the hosts to create more of an atmosphere as they take on the three-time European Champions. This is only Germany’s second meeting with the Eastern European side, the first coming more than ten years ago during a warm-up for Euro 2008 which finished 2-2.

With the regular club season long finished, there is a slightly strange feel about these two early June fixtures. The players are all set for their summer break, all of the talk is about who is moving where, and coach Joachim Löw is convalescing after recovering from a gym accident. Assistant Marcus Sorg takes charge of the side, who are looking to close out yet another troubled season with six points.

Having recovered from injury, skipper Manuel Neuer is back in goal for the Nationalmannschaft, while Bayer Leverkusen’s Jonathan Tah gets a start in place of the injured Antonio Rüdiger. Joining Tah are Matthias Ginter and Niklas Süle, while the switch to a three-man back line sees Thilo Kehrer on the bench.

With old hand Toni Kroos injured and Leon Goretzka on the bench, İlkay Gündoğan is back in the starting lineup alongside now established regulars Joshua Kimmich and Nico Schulz. Having made his debut off the bench against the Netherlands, RB Leipzig’s Lukas Klostermann makes his first senior start on the right of the four-man midfield unit.

With no specialist striker in the squad, there is a flexible and fast-looking three-man attack. The experienced Marco Reus assumes the central role, joining young guns Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sané.

The two teams step out for the national anthems, after which there is a minute of silence for the late former UEFA president Lennart Johannsson.

1 min. The home side kick off, kitted out in all white. Germany meanwhile are in all green. Igor Kriushenko’s men make their way into the German half, and Ginter concedes a slightly unnecessary free-kick.

2 mins. Gnabry is creating trouble in the Belarussian box, and Gündoğan has a shot that is straight at a defender. The hosts break and win a corner.

3 mins. The corner comes to nothing, and Neuer has the ball.

4 mins. Some early sweeper-keeper action for Neuer. If he is not going to be busy tonight, he will have to make his own entertainment.

6 mins. A nice move by the men in green, and the advancing Lukas Klosterman is beaten to the ball by ‘keeper Alyaksandr Hutar.

8 mins. There is a half chance for Gnabry after some nice approach play by Sané. The Mannschaft win a corner, but it comes to nothing.

9 mins. Gnabry charges inside from the left and forces Hutar into a block, and Germany are able to recycle the ball quickly. Reus finds Klostermann out to his right, and the Leipzig man fires a shot straight at the ‘keeper.

12 mins. We have the opener! The pressure from the visitors finally pays off, and Klosterman finds Joshua Kimmich, who in turns finds the fast-advancing Sané. The Manchester City man steps inside his marker and int the box before curling a smart left-footed shot into the top left-hand corner past the static Hutar. 1-0

15 mins. Germany are dominant now. They are passing the ball around quickly and confidently, and the home side cannot find any breathing space at all. Kimmich has a shot blocked.

16 mins. Niko Schulz has been dangerous out on the left, and his cross causes plenty of trouble for the Belarus defence. Marco Reus gets a faint sniff of goal, but his shot is blocked.

18 mins. Belarus do get some time in the German half, but the visitors break quickly. There’s an offside flag up though against Reus, and the move is snuffed out.

21 mins. Klostermann sends in a low cross from the right. Belarus clear.

24 mins. More pressure from the Nationalmannschaft, who are maintaining the pressure in their opponents and keeping up the fast tempo.

26 mins. The men in white win a corner, but there is little danger.

28 mins. More excellent movement down the right from the Germans, but Schulz’s scuffed volley loops harmlessly into the arms of Hutar.

29 mins. Out of nothing, a half chance for the Belarussians. A cross from the right finds Stanislaw Dragun, who cannot control the ball before scuffing a shot that is well blocked by Klostermann.

30 mins. The resulting corner is swung in, and this time Neuer has to make the save. It was an excellent parry, but Neuer as usual makes it look easy. Belarus have a corner, but the ball is lumped across the German box.

31 mins. Some absolutely outstanding sweeper-keeping from Neuer, who chases the ball towards the right touchline and beats Yury Kavalyow before playing a calm pass inside for a team mate. That was risky, but well worth watching again.

32 mins. Sané finds space some eleven yards out, but his header sails over the target.

36 mins. Almost a second for the visitors. Klostermann charges down the right, finding Gnabry. The Bayern winger lays it back for Gündoğan, whose shot from the edge of the box is deflected behind. Kimmich swings in the resulting corner, but Gnabry fires over.

39 mins. Klostermann wins anther corner. Belarus are piling in every man behind the ball now as we approach the last five minutes of the first half.

41 mins. More intricate passing from Sorg’s men. Maybe too intricate.

42 mins. Kimmich sends a speculative effort wide of the left upright.

45 mins. The whistle blows for half-time.

For a short while Germany threatened to overrun their opponents, but have not quite been able to convert their possession and opportunities into a bigger advantage.

Belarus did have one decent chance, but apart from Sané’s well-taken goal the highlight was probably Manuel Neuer’s defensive masterclass. The Nationalmannschaft will certainly be looking to add to their tally in the second half.

46 mins. The men in green get the second half underway.

48 mins. The second half has started much like the first, and the visitors are quick to establish themselves again. Gündoğan finds Sané out to his left, but the winger eschews the first-time shot and tries to cut inside. It is one touch too much, and he is closed down.

54 mins. Reus charges down the centre and finds Schulz out to left, and the left-back sends in a low cross. The ball skids past Reus, and is collected by Klostermann who has plenty of time to take aim. His shot is well hit, but high over the crossbar.

57 mins. Belarus coach Kriushenko makes his first change of the evening. Valeriy Gromyko is replaced by Nikita Korzun.

59 mins. Another Sané effort, another defensive block. There is far too much faffing around here. Germany have had plenty of possession, but the killer final ball has been seriously lacking. Hopefully this patient approach will pay off. The lack of a Klose or Gómez is telling.

62 mins. A second change for the hosts. Striker Dzyanis Laptsew has had a quiet evening, and makes way for Maksim Skavysh. The play continues at the other end as Ginter advances to the edge of the box and looks to find Gnabry, but Reus is better positioned. The visitors finally get a rub of the green, and the Dortmund man charges into space before calmly dinking a left-footed shot over Hutar. 2-0

66 mins. Kimmich and Klostermann combine to find Reus, who does far too much. He should have taken the first time shot, but instead sees himself closed down. With some clear daylight between the two teams, the visitors can afford to slow things down a bit.

68 mins. The chances keep coming. Gündoğan has a shot blocked.

69 mins. The final change for the Belarussians, as Mikhail Gordeichuk replaces Yury Kavalyow.

71 mins. Gnabry has not had the greatest evening, and is replaced by Julian Draxler as Sorg makes his first change.

73 mins. A half-chance for Reus, but Kimmich is brought down just outside the box. Sané’s free-kick is deflected behind off the wall.

75 mins. Reus and Schulz combine brilliantly, and a sharp low cross is sent into the Belarussian box. Ginter looks set to execute the easiest of tap-ins, but the ball doesn’t fall for him. There are plenty of white shirts waiting, and the home side clear.

76 mins. Reus has done his work, and is replaced by soon-to-be club team mate Julian Brandt.

77 mins. The marauding Schulz is hacked down by Igor Shitov, who is the first player to be booked.

81 mins. The third and final change for Germany. Gündoğan is off, Goreztka on.

82 mins. Draxler has a shot blocked.

83 mins. So close to a third. Ginter’s floated cross is met by Sané, who gets in between two defenders before planting a firm header against the post.

87 mins. Belarus break quickly, but Skavysh is closed down well by Süle.

90+4 mins. Goretzka is hacked down by Korzun, who is booked after the home side put the ball out of play. There are some weak shouts for a penalty at the other end, but the Serbian referee waves play on.

90+5 mins. The referee blows to signal the end of the match.

Up against a well-drilled but unadventurous opponent, Germany have done what the needed to do. The dominated the game, scored a lovely opening goal and a well-taken second. It could have been far more comfortable, but the end result is that the three points are safely in the bag. Functional with a couple of moments of flair: that was pretty much about it.

With six points from their opening two matches, the team head back home where they will face Estonia in Mainz. Three more points will be expected, and hopefully a few more goals.

v Belarus, Borisov Arena, Borisov, 08.06.2019

2-0 (1-0)
Sané 13., Reus 62. / –

Germany: Neuer (c) – Ginter, Süle, Tah – Klostermann, Kimmich, Gündoğan (81. Goretzka), Schulz – Gnabry (71. Draxler), Reus (76. Brandt), Sané

Belarus: Hutar – Shitov, Naumov, Martynovich (c), Palyakow – Gromyko (57. Korzun), Dragun – Kavalyow (69. Gordeichuk), Mayewski, Valadzko – Laptsew (62. Skavysh)

Referee: Srdjan Jovanović (Serbia)
Assistants: Uroš Stojković (Serbia), Milan Mihajlović (Serbia)
Fourth Official: Novak Simović (Serbia)
Referee Observer: Konrad Plautz (Austria)

Yellow Cards: – / Shitov 77., Korzun 90.+4.
Red Cards: – / –

Ball Possession: 46% / 54%
Attempts on Target/Blocked: 15 / 6
Attempts off Target: 0 / 6
Corners: 4 / 8
Fouls Committed: 8 / 10

Attendance: 12,000

Functional, with a flash of flair: Germany dispose of battling Belarus
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