Northern Ireland 0-2 Germany: Michael O'Neill's side suffer first defeat of Euro 2020 qualifying
Report and highlights as Marcel Halstenberg and Serge Gnabry secured Germany's victory
By PA Media
Last Updated: 10/09/19 7:18am
Northern Ireland suffered their first defeat of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign as Marcel Halstenberg's thunderbolt sent Germany on their way to a 2-0 win in Belfast.
The first of four crunch fixtures against the powerhouses of Group C - Northern Ireland face The Netherlands in Rotterdam next - ended in defeat after Serge Gnabry rolled in a second in stoppage time, but the 18,000 fans packed into Windsor Park will hardly have been discouraged given their side's display.
Michael O'Neill's men played with heart and desire as they were roared on by a boisterous crowd, but ultimately Germany's superior quality saw them take control after the break.
The opening goal was a moment of pure quality as Halstenberg met Lukas Klostermann's deep cross with a powerful half-volley that flew past Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
For the opening 45 minutes, Northern Ireland tested Germany's resolve in the wake of their conceding four second-half goals in defeat to the Netherlands on Friday night. The Germans have never lost back-to-back qualifiers but they certainly looked unnerved in the opening exchanges as Northern Ireland poured forward.
Conor Washington poked just over in the sixth minute and was then denied by a fine save from Manuel Neuer after an uncharacteristic mistake from Kroos.
Germany gradually began to take the sting out of the atmosphere as they hogged possession and created chances of their own, with George Saville taking the full force of a Kimmich strike which he blocked on the edge of the area.
A dramatic end to the first half then followed. Stuart Dallas' low cross caused a goalmouth scramble but Neuer somehow emerged with the ball as Washington could not stretch far enough, while Peacock-Farrell made a point-blank save from Werner as Germany tried to hit them on the break.
But for all Northern Ireland's hard work in the first half, Germany needed only three minutes to open the scoring in the second. Peacock-Farrell had already made a good save to deny Klostermann in the opening seconds but there was nothing he could do when Halstenberg met Klostermann's deep cross moments later.
It might have been worse moments later but the Burnley stopper denied Brandt before Klostermann fired wastefully over on the follow-up, while Gnabry poked the ball just wide from a counter-attack.
Germany were in full flow now and Peacock-Farrell made an excellent save to push Werner's low shot just around the post after a neat combination with Marco Reus.
Northern Ireland needed to regroup, but were screaming for a penalty when Paddy McNair hit the deck on the hour, and then saw Dallas fire just wide from substitute Gavin Whyte's cross.
O'Neill threw on Josh Magennis and young Linfield striker Shayne Lavery in the closing stages but they struggled to make an impact and it was Gnabry who had the final say, beating the offside trap and then Peacock-Farrell from a tight angle in the third minute of time added on.
O'Neill: A missed opportunity
Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill felt his side missed some big chances as they suffered a 2-0 defeat to Germany in their Euro 2020 Qualifier.
- Germany have won three consecutive away games for the first time since September 2015, having lost their previous three in a row.
- Having lost just two of Michael O'Neill's first 14 competitive meetings at home (P14 W8 D4 L2), Northern Ireland have suffered five defeats in their last seven such games (P7 W2 D0 L5).
- Northern Ireland have failed to score at home for the first time in their last eight international matches, last doing so in a 0-1 defeat to Switzerland in November 2017.