Lazy Evening in Leipzig

Joachim Löw’s side made their way back home and to Leipzig’s Zentralstadion – known these days as the Red-Bull-Arena – for their final game before next month’s European Championships, with the coach expected to make the few final tweaks to the side before deciding the starting line-up for the much anticipated opening fixture against Portugal in L’viv on June 9th.

Their opponents from Israel would provide stiff competition – mainly on account of a highly defensive strategy reminiscent of the tactics employed by Chelsea in the recent Champions’ League final against FC Bayern München. The major difference was that Israel don’t have Didier Drogba but Itay Schechter, who had lit up the Bundesliga in his own special way with three goals in twenty-three games for table-proppers 1. FC Kaiserslautern.

There was one major difference to the side outlined in my pre-match preview, with FC Bayern München’s Holger Badstuber lining up in the centre of the four-man defence instead of Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels. With Bastian Schweinsteiger still not fully fit and sitting things out, seven of the eight FC Bayern players would make a start – and of the team that started against Switzerland on Saturday only Sami Khedira, Per Mertesacker, Mesut Özil and Lukas Podolski would line up on what was a cloudy evening in Saxony.

Match Report

1 min. Playing in their traditional Schwarz und Weiß ensemble, the home side gets things underway before a capacity crowd of 43,241 people.

5 mins. Some neat play by Philipp Lahm sends Mario Gómez through. The striker appears to be bundled over by an Israeli defender by the Dutch referee waves play on.

10 mins. There’s not much going on, and while it is the Germans applying most of the pressure not much is coming out of it. Israel are defending very deep here and looking to catch the Germans on the break.

14 mins. Podolski has and effort at goal, but the ball is easily collected by ‘keeper Ariel Harush.

18 mins. Gómez is put through on the right and gets his shot on target, but it is again easily collected by Harush.

19 mins. Germany win a free-kick some twenty-five yards out after Toni Kroos is brought down, but it comes to nothing.

19 mins. The first real chance of the match, as Jérôme Boateng and skipper Philipp Lahm combine down the right. Boateng cuts inside and unleashes a left-footed shot on goal, and is unlucky to see it crash off the far post with Harush well beaten.

21 mins. Gómez and Thomas Müller combine to launch another attack but the Bayern striker is unable to collect the slightly inaccurate return pass and the ball finds its way to Harush.

27 mins. Israel string a few passes together and the home side cannot do much about it – a few whistles can now be heard. The crowd are getting impatient – we are in need of a goal here.

29 mins. Lahm sends in a cross from the left and Gómez has a go at a spectacular-looking overhead kick but defender Rami Gershon’s head gets there first. Gómez is down on the deck, and it’s a free-kick to Israel.

31 mins. A Lahm shot from distance is deflected into the arms of Harush.

34 mins. A half-chance for Gómez as Lahm plays a sharp cross out out on the left towards the near post. The FC Bayern striker gets his foot on the ball, but cannot direct it towards the target.

36 mins. The Mannschaft are looking really unimaginative at the moment, as a poor Kroos effort goes well wide of the Israeli goal.

39 mins. Müller works his way down the right and into the opposition box. He sends in a decent cross, but Sami Khedira’s attempt at a diving header flies wide of the right-hand upright.

40 mins. Endlich. Khedira slips the ball inside to Müller, whose first touch finds Gómez. Gómez looks as though he is going to tread on the ball, but manages to gain control before smashing a right-footed shot high into the roof of the net to break the deadlock and notch up his twenty-second international goal. 1-0.

45 mins. Podolski shows that he really doesn’t have a right foot by blasting the ball high into the crowd from distance.

It’s half-time in a warm yet wet Leipzig.

Israel are doing a great Chelsea impression here in parking the big blue bus, and Manuel Neuer and the rest of the German defence have hardly been tested. Germany deserved the goal for all their pressure, and when it finally came it was a well-taken strike by Mario Gómez. Let’s hope things open up a little more in the second half, though the wet pitch isn’t going to help much.

Gómez has redeemed himself with his goal, though Podolski is looking poor and Özil slightly subdued. Müller has been sharp when given the chance, though the best player on the field has been Sami Khedira.

The biggest disappointment however has been Toni Kroos, who looks as though he has been shooting at the corner flag in training.

46 mins. The second half gets under way. The Israelis have made a couple of changes, but it’s a case of as you were for Jogi Löw’s side.

48 mins. Germany playing keep-ball, looking for the opening. After a good twenty passes, Podolski has a shot from just outside the box that flies over the crossbar.

50 mins. It’s like a pinball machine inside the Israeli box and somehow the ball doesn’t quite fall to a player in a white shirt. A cross-cum-shot from Podolski is palmed behind for a corner by Harush.

51 mins. The Israelis get their first real shot on goal, as Bebars Natcho is given way too much space. His shot is on target, but easily collected by Neuer.

54 mins. Kroos tries to put Müller through but the pass is just a little too heavy, and Harush collects.

55 mins. There’s way too much space being given away here and substitute Gil Vermouth gets a decent shot on target that is excellently tipped over the bar by Neuer.

56 mins. A lovely counterattack by the Mannschaft, and a beautiful pass with the outside of his right foot by Khedira finds Özil in space. The German number eight lines up, but his low shot skids wide of Harush’s right post.

58 mins. With the Israelis finally deciding to play some football, things are starting to open up a little. A Kroos corner from the left finds its way across the penalty area, and Holger Badstuber is unable to get on the end of it.

61 mins. As the game passes the hour mark, there are more whistles from the crowd.

64 mins. It’s almost 2-0 as some great passing in the Israeli box sees Podolski lash a left-footed shot on target, but it is well blocked by Harush. A lovely cross from the right by Müller is just front of the fast-advancing Khedira, and the Israeli ‘keeper collects. Khedira is looking like a centre-forward here… Wo ist Gómez?

67 mins. André Schürrle comes on for the disappointing Podolski, and there’s also a change up front as Miroslav Klose comes on for Gómez to win his 116th cap.

71 mins. More passing about, and the crowd are not liking it much. The pretty build up is all well and good, but the killer punch is missing.

74 mins. Some intelligent play by Müller out on the right as he cuts the ball back for Schürrle. The Leverkusen man’s shot is deflected behind for a corner.

76 mins. Müller is put into space inside the box by Boateng, and after a poor first touch is able to drag the ball past his marker and line up a shot. His left-footed effort is unfortunately wide of the target.

78 mins. Kroos wildly overhits a ball into the Israeli box, and there are more whistles from the stands.

79 mins. Schürrle gets in a snapshot which is deflected for a corner – which garners nothing.

82 mins. Out of nowhere Germany engineer another attack, and Schürrle drives a curling shot past Harush and into the top left hand corner of the net from just under twenty-five yeards. A quite brilliant strike to make it 2-0. It’s Schürrle’s seventh goal in his fourteenth international, and he is starting to make a habit of coming on as a substitute and scoring goals.

83 mins. Marco Reus comes on for Müller.

86 mins. Mario Götze is on for the disappointing Kroos.

87 mins. Some nice tika-taka here from the Mannschaft, and a teasing Schürrle cross from the left is well met by a leaping Klose who forces a fine save from Harush who tips it over the bar.

88 mins. Khedira gets some warm applause from the crowd as he is replaced by Lars Bender.

90+2 mins. Klose tries chipping Harush but the Israeli ‘keeper is able to safely collect the ball just under his crossbar.

90+3 mins. Lior Refaelov has a snapshot for the Israelis, but Neuer makes it look easy and collects.

90+3 mins. The final whistle blows.

Not exactly the best spectacle – though things probably weren’t helped by the negative tactics employed by the Israelis in the first half or the weather, which wasn’t exactly the perfect recipe for pretty fast-flowing football. In the end the team did enough to grind out the win, and in doing do achieved their first clean sheet since the 3-0 win against the Netherlands in November last year.

Player analysis and ratings will follow tomorrow.

v Israel, Red-Bull-Arena, Leipzig, 31.05.2012

2-0 (1-0)
Gómez 40., Schürrle 82. / –

Germany: Neuer – Boateng, Mertesacker, Badstuber, Lahm (c) – Khedira (88. L. Bender), Kroos (86. Götze) – Müller (83. Reus), Özil, Podolski (67. Schürrle) – Gómez (46. Klose)

Referee: Kevin Blom (Netherlands)
Assistants: Nicky Siebert, Patrick Langkamp (Netherlands)
Fourth Official: Marco Fritz (Germany)

Yellow Cards: – / –
Red Cards: – / –

Attempts on Target: 7 / 3
Attempts off Target: 17 / 2
Corners: 7 / 2
Fouls Committed: 9 / 5

Attendance: 43,241

Lazy Evening in Leipzig
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