Sloppy Germany end barren run with tight win over Saudi Arabia

After last week’s insipid display against Austria in Klagenfurt, Germany will be looking to give their supporters a rousing send-off today in their last game before they head off to Russia for the World Cup. Up against fellow tournament finalists Saudi Arabia in Leverkusen, Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw starts with a tournament-standard lineup.

With the exception of the rested Mesut Özil who is out with a slight knee problem, this looks very much like the sort of starting eleven will expect to see in Russia. All of the big hitters are back, in what looks like an exciting 4-2-3-1 formation.

First up, the defence. FC Bayern and Mannschaft stalwarts Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels are back, replacing Niklas Süle and Antonio Rüdiger. In the defensive midfield there is another established duo, with Sami Khedira joined by the returning Toni Kroos who replaces İlkay Gündoğan.

Up front, it is all change. Özil is rested, Julian Brandt is on the bench and Leroy Sané is no longer with the squad. Thomas Müller returns after being rested against Austria, along with Marco Reus and Julian Draxler. It is the first start for Reus since March 2016, and the friendly against England in Berlin. Up top is RB Leipzig hotshot Timo Werner, who replaces the dropped Nils Petersen.

In contrast to the wet and soggy Klagenfurt, it is a pleasant late afternoon in Leverkusen. The world champions and FIFA-ranked number one team take on the tournament’s lowest-ranked side, and on paper this should be an easy afternoon. But as we saw last Saturday, rankings and reputations sometimes do not necessarily correlate with results.

It is Germany’s third meeting with Saudi Arabia. The first was in the 2002 World Cup where now trainer Miroslav Klose bagged a hat-trick in a thumping 8-0 win, followed by a friendly in 1998 in Riyadh where the Germans strolled to a 3-0 win with goals from Andreas Möller, Thomas Helmer and Olaf Marschall. With Erich Ribbeck as coach. Those were the days.

Both teams head out onto the pitch, with the Mannschaft again led by ‘keeper Manuel Neuer. The team and crowd are in good voice for the Nationalhymne, and we are all set to go. Germany are in their traditional home ensemble, and Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Saudi side are kitted out in all green.

1 min. Saudi Arabia get things underway.

2 mins. Germany are on the attack, and Werner’s low cross is gathered safely by Saudi ‘keeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf.

3 mins. The home side are awarded a free-kick out on the right. Kroos swings it into the box, but Saudi Arabia are able to clear their lines.

5 mins. Draxler and Reus combine nicely on the left, and Germany win a corner. It is taken short, and the Saudis clear. The ball is quickly turned back towards Al-Mayouf’s goal, but he collects safely.

7 mins. It is all Germany here. Hummels has a shot blocked, and Werner wins another corner.

8 mins. The pressure tells. The men in white recycle the ball nicely, and a long ball from Kimmich finds the fast advancing Reus, whose neat square ball inside sets up Werner perfectly. The Leipzig striker gets his foot slightly underneath the ball, but gets enough on it top send it into the net off the underside of the crossbar. 1-0.

Timo Werner celebrates Germany’s opening goal with Marco Reus and Julian Draxler

9 mins. The Saudis get some men into the German half, but the ball doesn’t quite fall for them and Germany clear. The men in green regain possession, and Fahad Al-Muwallad’s shot from the edge of the box is collected by Neuer.

10 mins. Draxler is almost through on goal after a lovely ball from Müller, but Al-Mayouf gets there first to collect.

11 mins. The home side are looking good for a second goal. Werner shows some great skills before seeing his shot blocked, and from the rebound Reus hits a lovely first-time effort that pings against the base of the left post. Draxler makes space down the left and crosses, but Al-Mayouf collects.

14 mins. A Müller cross from the right is cleared.

15 mins. Khedira has a shot from distance, but it floats harmlessly wide of the target.

18 mins. Neuer shows some neat skills with both feet to effect a clearance. The sweeper keeper is definitely back on form.

20 mins. Kroos is challenged awkwardly in the half way line, but the referee plays the advantage. Draxler combines well with Werner, but the Leipzig man’s pass is slightly overhit.

21 mins. The energetic Reus sends a smart through ball for Werner, but the striker’s first touch is poor.

23 mins. Kimmich is brought down by Omar Hawsawi. Free kick to Germany out on the right, some thirty yards out.

24 mins. Kroos dinks the free-kick into the box, but a man in a green shirt gets there first to head clear. Germany recycle the ball again as they look to keep the pressure on their opponents.

25 mins. Werner has the ball in the back of the Saudi net again, but the offside flag is up. A clear decision against three men in white shirts.

26 mins. Reus makes good ground to hook a long and floated Boateng pass back into the Saudi penalty area, but the ball has gone over the byline.

27 mins. Kimmich makes his way down the left and send in a teasing cross which floats over the opposition goal and behind for a goal kick.

29 mins. Saudi Arabia look to break, but Neuer is quickly off his line to safely head the ball to a team mate.

31 mins. Reus picks out Khedira with a perfect pass that slices through the Saudi defence, and the German number six slips his shot just wide of the far post. The offside flag is up, but the replay shows that Khedira was well onside.

32 mins. Another lovely buildup from the Mannschaft. Müller’s neat flick finds Werner, who heads narrowly wide.

33 mins. A good spell for the visitors, and Hummels does well to get ahead of the dangerous Al-Muwallad. Saudi Arabia win their first corner, which comes to nothing. The game has gone past the half hour mark, and it has gone a little flat for the home team after their very bright start.

36 mins. Werner has a shot, then Müller. Khedira gets in front of his marker to meet a lovely ball from Reus, but his header pushed onto the post by Al-Mayouf. That was an outstanding reaction save.

38 mins. Another opportunity for the Saudis, as Al-Muwallad is intercepted just in time by Hector. Jogi Löw’s men are starting to look a little wobbly at the back, and the Saudis are seeing a lot more of the ball. Moments later, Al-Muwallad is almost in again.

42 mins. Werner plays a lovely cutback for Draxler, who in turn finds Müller who stabs it into the net. The offside flag is up, but that is a pretty ordinary decision from the Slovenian official on the touchline. It is still 1-0, but with VAR that would have been two.

43 mins. This time it counts. Werner sends in a sharp cross from the left, and defender Omar Hawsawi gets in a complete tangle as he tries to beat Müller to the ball with Draxler lurking just behind him. The ‘keeper is beaten, and Germany double their lead. The stadium announcer is giving the goal to Müller, but there was no celebration from Der Raumdeuter. 2-0.

Saudi defender Omar Hawsawi puts the ball into the back of his own net, under pressure from Thomas Müller

45 mins. Reus bursts towards the byline and cut the ball back into the box, but Werner cannot get enough on his flicked shot.

45+1 mins. The referee blows for half time.

After a bright start, Germany looked as though they were going to overwhelm their opponents. But chances came and went, with Saudi ‘keeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf particularly impressive. Much of the impetus was lost, but picked up again towards half-time. Germany are definitely worth their two goal lead, and will be looking to increase heir advantage in the second half, while getting a few more of the squad on the pitch.

46 mins. There are some changes. Neuer and Boateng makes way for Marc-André ter Stegen and Niklas Süle for Germany, while Mohammad Al-Breik replaces Mansoor Al-Harbi for Saudi Arabia.

47 mins. Kimmich breaks into the box, and his low cross is well blocked by Yasser Al-Shahrani. The resulting corner is swung in, and Hummels cannot quite get there.

49 mins. A long ball deep onto the Saudi half finds Werner, but the striker dithers for too long before being dispossessed.

50 mins. A lovely low cross from Hector is met by Draxler, whose firmly-struck right-footed effort is well blocked by Al-Mayouf.

53 mins. Kimmich drives a low cross towards the far post, but there is nobody on the end of it.

55 mins. Müller has Kimmich to his right in space, but goes for goal. His right-footed effort is well struck and on target, but Al-Mayouf dives well to his right to make the save. The Saudi ‘keeper has been pretty impressive.

57 mins. Germany win a corner, but the whistle is blown against Hummels for a shove in the box. There’s a third change for Germany, as Reus is replaced by İlkay Gündoğan. There are a few boos from the crowd, suggesting that some have not forgotten about the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan shirt presentation and the infamous “my president” issue. It does ensure that after missing out in 2014, Reus will be heading to his first World Cup.

58 mins. This is a bit like Stefan Effenberg back in the 1990s. Every time Gündoğan is on the ball, there are loud boos and whistles from the crowd.

59 mins. A half chance for Germany, and it is that man Gündoğan. He can’t get enough on his shot, and Al-Mayouf does well to get a hand on it. Gündoğan looks to have a second swipe at the ball, but the Saudi ‘keeper gathers it safely.

62 mins. Changes for both teams. Mohammad Al-Sahlawi replaces the excellent Al-Muwallad for the Saudis, and Werner makes way for Mario Gómez for the Mannschaft.

67 mins. The atmosphere is a little strange at the moment. The German game has gone a little flat, and the crowd’s reaction to Gündoğan is not helping matters. With Reus now off the pitch, the edge that was there in the German game looks to have been blunted somewhat.

70 mins. Kimmich is pulled down just outside the Saudi box. Draxler’s free-kick is straight at Al-Mayouf.

72 mins. Salem Al-Dawsari bursts down the left, but is well marshalled by Süle who concedes the corner.

73 mins. Gómez sends the ball through to Müller, who continues his run to the edge of the Saudi penalty area. He unleashes a right-footed shot that is on target, but saved well by Al-Mayouf.

74 mins. That is the last action for Müller, who makes way for Julian Brandt.

75 mins. Another change from Saudi coach Pizzi. Housain Al-Mogahwi replaces Ibrahim Otayf.

76 mins. Kroos threads a lovely ball out for Gómez, who goes haring down the left. The Stuttgart striker sends in a crisp cross that is a little too strong for the fast advancing Brandt. That would have been one hell of a first touch.

79 mins. Kroos looks to find Draxler with an expansive pass, but Al-Shahrani reads it well.

81 mins. Hector finds Brandt in the box, but the Leverkusen man is challenged well by Omar Hawsawi. The corner from Kroos is headed clear. There’s another personnel change for the Mannschaft, as Kimmich makes way for Matthias Ginter.

82 mins. Another substitution for the Saudis. Ali Hadi Al-Bulaihi replaces Osama Hawsawi.

84 mins. Tauseer Al-Jassim runs into Khedira’s foot, and finishes the move with a perfectly-timed dive. With VAR we might have seen a different decision, but referee Slavko Vinčić signals for a penalty to Saudi Arabia.

Marc-André ter Stegen saves Al-Sahlawi’s penalty, but could do nothing about the rebound that resulted in Saudi Arabia’s goal.

85 mins. The penalty from substitute Al-Sahlawi is straight down the middle, and ter Stegen does well to save with his feet. There is little he can do after that though. A number of Saudi players line themselves up for the rebound, Hummels cannot close the men in green shirts down quickly enough, and Al-Jassim slams the ball into the roof of the net. 2-1.

86 mins. It was messy, but that is Saudi Arabia’s first goal against Germany at full international level.

87 mins. Another Saudi switch. Al-Dawsari makes way for Hattan-Sultan Bahebri.

89 mins. Gündoğan is brought down by Al-Mogahwi, who is shown the first yellow card of the contest.

90+1 mins. A smart ball from Brandt, and Gómez cannot get enough on it. The offside is flag is up anyway.

90+2 mins. Saudi Arabia almost fashion an equaliser out of nothing. More sloppy defending from the Germans, Al-Jassim has the goal at his mercy, but goes for the pass instead. There’s a decent penalty shout against Hummels as he challenges Al-Sahlawi, but Germany gather their composure and clear.

90+3 mins. The whistle is blown for full time. Yes, it is a friendly. But usually Germany pull out a showstopper in the final home send off match. This was oddly flat, with quite a few concerning moments in the second half. Anyway, the barren run comes to an end. Next up, the real thing. Mexico in Moscow.

v Saudi Arabia, BayArena, Leverkusen, 08.06.2018
Saudi Arabia

2-1 (2-0)
Werner 8., Om. Hawsawi og 43. / Al-Jassim 86.

Germany: Neuer (c) (46. ter Stegen) – Kimmich (81. Ginter), Boateng (46. Süle), Hummels, Hector – Khedira, Kroos – Müller (74. Brandt), Draxler, Reus (57. Gündoğan) – Werner (62. Gómez)

Saudi Arabia: Al-Mayouf – Al-Shahrani, Os. Hawsawi (c) (82. Al-Bulaihi), Om. Hawsawi, Al-Harbi (46. Al-Breik) – Otayf (75. Al-Mogahwi), Al-Jassim – Al-Faraj (90+1. Al-Khaibari), Al-Shehri, Al-Dawsari (87. Bahebri) – Al-Muwallad (62. Al-Sahlawi)

Referee: Slavko Vinčić (Slovenia)
Assistants: Tomaž Klančnik (Slovenia), Grega Kordež (Slovenia)
Fourth Official: Rade Obrenovič (Slovenia)

Yellow Cards: – / Al-Mogahwi
Red Cards: – / –

Ball Possession: 59% / 41%
Attempts on Target: 8 / 4
Attempts off Target: 13 / 8
Corners: 8 / 2
Fouls Committed: 12 / 8

Attendance: 30,210

Sloppy Germany end barren run with tight win over Saudi Arabia

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