Jekyll and Hyde Germany endure torrid second half before snatching late victory in Amsterdam

We wait a couple of years for a match against the Netherlands, then two come at once. Followed by another two in short order. After last year’s UEFA Nations League double header, one can say that German fans have had enough of the Oranje. But there is nothing quite like this old-fashioned neighbourly duel.

Four days after their bad half/good half draw against Serbia in Wolfsburg, Jogi Löw’s new-look German team open their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign against their old rivals from across the border.

The German coach will be looking for a far better showing than last time around in the Dutch capital, where his team were handed an emphatic three-goal hammering. Then there was the last meeting in Gelsenkirchen in the final match of 2018, when die Nationalmannschaft threw away a two-goal lead following yet another final phase meltdown.

Having missed out on the last two major tournament finals, the Netherlands are a team on a clear upward curve. Ronald Koeman’s side have started their qualifying campaign in grand style, easing to an assured 4-0 win over group outsiders Belarus.

Germany come into this contest with just one win in their last five outings, a 3-0 win over Russia in November last year. The Dutch, in contrast, are unbeaten in their last five matches. Germany have the better overall record between the two countries, having racked up fifteen wins against the Netherlands’ eleven to go with 16 draws.

Löw’s men are clear second favourites coming into this meeting, but the upside is that this is likely to be the toughest match of the eight-game campaign. Should they overturn the form book, it will be the perfect start.

There are seven changes to the experimental eleven that started against Serbia. Jonathan Tah, Marcel Halstenberg, İlkay Gündoğan, Kai Havertz, Julian Brandt and Timo Werner are all on the bench, while the injured Lukas Klostermann is alredy back home. Matthias Ginter, Antonio Rüdiger, Thilo Kehrer, Nico Schulz, Toni Kroos, Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry are in.

It is a poignant evening for the home fans. Three years ago today, Dutch legend Johan Cruyff passed away. It is indeed apt that this classic encounter is played in the stadium named after him. As usual, there is the chorus of boos for the Nationalhymne from the home crowd. Both teams are in their traditional and well-known outfits: Germany in their white/black/white, and the hosts in orange/white/orange.

1 min. The visitors get things underway.

2 mins. It has been a bright start from the Germans, and a Leroy Sané cross is deflected into the path of Gnabry, whose shot is on target but easy enough for Dutch ‘keeper Jesper Cillessen.

5 mins. Germany win the first corner of the match.

6 mins. Kroos sends in an outswinger, but it is an easy clearance for the Dutch defence.

10 mins. A spell of dominance for the home team, who are chasing every ball and winning the right challenges. Ryan Babel gets a sniff of goal, but cannot control the ball.

11 mins. Memphis Depay is brought down by Joshua Kimmich some 25 yards out. Memphis Depay steps up to take the free-kick, but his effort is high over the target.

13 mins. Germany win the ball in the opposition half. Kimmich makes his way into the box, but is robbed of possession before he can get a shot away.

15 mins. Germany break down the left. Kroos shows get poise as he strides forward, and finds Schulz ahead of him. The Hoffenheim man sprints towards the byline with purpose before cutting the ball back for Sané, who bamboozles Mathijs de Ligt before finding the right corner. That was great to watch! 1-0.

18 mins. The home crowd is a lot quieter than it was at the start.

23 mins. Rüdiger launches a long ball forward which is well collected by Goretzka, but the flag is up for offside. The FC Bayern man made his run just a little too early.

25 mins. There’s a sudden orange burst, and flick-on from Depay puts Babel in with a chance. His shot is on target, but German skipper Manuel Neuer gets down well to make the save.

27 mins. A chance from nowhere for the Dutch. Quincy Promes sends a firm cross into the box, and Babel eludes Kehrer and hits an instinctive volley from close range. Somehow, Neuer gets enough behind it to make the block.

28 mins. As the play switches to the other side, Gnabry tries his best to work his way past Virgil van Dijk. Gnabry is strong, but there is always going to be one winner there. The big Dutchman clears.

29 mins. This time it is Sané’s turn to take on van Dijk, and he meets the same fate.

31 mins. Rüdiger makes a hash of a clearance as the home side launch another attack, but Denzel Dumfries’ shot is straight at Neuer.

34 mins. A Rüdiger long ball finds Gnabry, who makes a charge down the left and takes on van Dijk again. This time the Dutch defender sits back, and the FC Bayern man cuts inside before lashing a curling right-footed shot that smashes into the top right-hand corner. Cillessen has no chance. Time for that famous soup-stirring celebration… What a strike! 2-0.

38 mins. The Dutch are starting to chop at the heels of the Germans now, and the Spanish referee has had enough of the nonsense. Daley Blind is booked.

39 mins. More great build up from the men in white. Schulz send in another teasing cross, and Kehrer’s header is on target. It is straight at Cillessen though, and the ‘keeper gathers.

40 mins. Sané gets another sight of goal as the Dutch defence are sliced open, but Cillessen gets down well to make the save.

44 mins. Gini Wijnaldum makes a run into the box to chase the ball, but Niklas Süle times his slide perfectly.

45 mins. Wijnaldum leans into Rüdiger and gets a grip of the defender’s shirt before falling over in the box. The referee waves play on.

45+1 mins. The whistle blows for half time. Can we be optimistic? That was a fantastic first half. Two lovely goals, a dominant display, and two solid saves from Neuer. If the coach had a plan, it seems to be working well. He is not off the hook yet though. We still have another 45 minutes to play.

46 mins. The home side restart. Coach Koeman has made a change, with Steven Bergwijn replacing Babel.

47 mins. There are plenty of chances for Germany to clear the ball, but there is far too much faffing about at the back. The Dutch are able to put pressure on the German defence.

48 mins. Et voilà. The ball is whipped into the German box by Depay, and de Ligt is there to meet it with a well-directed header. No chance for Neuer this time, and the hosts are back in the contest. 1-2.

51 mins. Finally, there is a bit of breathing space for the Germans. Sané does well to make his way into the opposition half before he his clipped again.

56 mins. Time to take a long intake of breath. This game has been well and truly turned on its head.

58 mins. The Dutch are mixing a strong pressing game with speculative punts up the field. There has been no response from Löw’s side.

59 mins. Dumfries has his hand on Schulz’s shoulder for a long time, but the referee waves play on when the Hoffenheim man finally goes down. That looked like a free-kick.

61 mins. A cheeky free-kick is sent in by Depay, and Wijnaldum bursts through a crowd of white shirts to get a shot in. Neuer makes another great save, but the offside flag is up anyway. Looking at the replay, that was close. Very close.

63 mins. Well there we have it. The German defence is all over the shop, Depay is allowed to create space for a shot, and beats Neuer at his near post. So much for the great first half. That was an absolute shambles. 2-2.

70 mins. The first personnel change for Germany. The coach is looking to shore things up a bit, and Gündoğan is on for Goretzka.

75 mins. Am I right in thinking that German fans are starting to run down the clock in their heads? There has been next to nothing in this second half, and it is as if the team that went two goals up in the first half have completely disappeared.

80 mins. The impressive Depay charges forward again, and sends a low pass for Wijnaldum to chase. There’s a little too much on it though, and Neuer is there first to smother the ball. He hugs it gratefully.

81 mins. Kroos is brought down just outside the box by Frenkie de Jong. This could be set up nicely.

82 mins. Kroos goes for goal and tries to beat Cillessen at his near post, but sends the shot wide. So much for that.

83 mins. The Dutch are on the attack again. Bergwijn has a shot blocked, and the men in orange recycle the ball for their next thrust forward. Tick tock, goes the clock.

84 mins. Chances have been few and far between for Gnabry in the second half, but he has a chance to take on van Dijk again. He turns inside the defender and gets a low shot in, but it is easy enough for Cillessen.

86 mins. The hosts shift forward again, and last man Rüdiger does well to put the ball behind behind for a corner. There is a bit of panic, but the ball is hoofed up the pitch.

87 mins. There are more gaping holes in the German defence, and Süle does well to clear the danger. Nerves are jangling now. Surely, we cannot throw this away?

88 mins. Gnabry makes way for Marco Reus. One last throw of the dice from the Bundestrainer?

89 mins. Some neat control from Gündoğan, and Germany can come forward with the ball. This eases the pressure a bit.

90 mins. Out of nowhere. Germany have been a distant second best, but produce a moment of quality when it really matters. Gündoğan has looked assured since his arrival, and controls the ball beautifully before finding Reus to his left. The Dortmund winger looks up, and cuts the ball back into the centre of the box. With two Dutch defenders chasing down Sané, Schulz is in space. With his wrong foot, the left-back slides the ball into the bottom left-hand corner. What a turnaround. 3-2.

90+1 mins. A change for the Dutch, as Luuk de Jong replaces Marten de Roon. Koeman’s men have are determined not to go down with a fight. They advance up the pitch again, and Süle is there again with a safe clearance. There are just two minutes of additional time.

90+2 mins. The final whistle blows. I have no idea how they have done it, but Germany have taken all three points. Having endured a torrid second half, the Nationalmannschaft have finally broken that horrible spell in competitive matches. At the sixth attempt.

That was one weird match. A dominant first half, and a second half as poor as the first was magnificent. Then, right at the end, a winner to confound everybody. Germany have a crucial and much-needed win, and can be pleased with the result. The Euro 2020 campaign is under way, but there is still plenty of work to do. The coach is not off the hook quite yet.

v Netherlands, Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam, 24.03.2019
Netherlands

3-2 (2-0)
Sané 15., Gnabry 34., Schulz 90. / de Ligt 46., Depay 63.

Germany: Neuer (c) – Ginter, Süle, Rüdiger – Kehrer, Kimmich, Kroos, Schulz – Goretzka (70. Gündoğan) – Gnabry (88. Reus), Sané

Netherlands: Cillessen – Dumfries, de Ligt, van Dijk (c), Blind – de Roon (90.+1. L. de Jong), F. de Jong – Wijnaldum – Promes, Depay, Babel (46. Bergwijn)

Referee: Jesús Gil Manzano (Spain)
Assistants: Angel Nevado Rodríguez (Spain), Diego Barbero Sevilla (Spain)
Fourth Official: Juan Martínez Munuera (Spain)
Referee Observer: Vítor Melo Pereira (Portugal)

Yellow Cards: – / Blind 38.
Red Cards: – / –

Ball Possession: 46% / 54%
Attempts on Target/Blocked: 8 / 14
Attempts off Target: 3 / 3
Corners: 1 / 9
Fouls Committed: 10 / 15

Attendance: 51,694

Jekyll and Hyde Germany endure torrid second half before snatching late victory in Amsterdam
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