Northern Ireland 0-2 Germany: Michael O’Neill’s side slip to second after narrow defeat courtesy of Marcel Halstenberg and Serge Gnabry
- The four-time world champions were on the ropes at Windsor Park on Monday
- Northern Ireland did much to justify their position at the top of Group C
- In the 48th minute, defender Marcel Halstenberg floored them with a goal
- Serge Gnabry then made sure of the points with a low finish in stoppage time
This is not a vintage Germany team, but it doesn’t mean they can’t score vintage goals.
Make no mistake, the four-time world champions were on the ropes at Windsor Park against a Northern Ireland side that did much to justify their rise to the top of Group C.
Then in the 48th minute, defender Marcel Halstenberg produced a stunning strike to end their 100 per cent record and knock them off their perch.
Marcel Halstenberg celebrates open the scoring for Germany against Northern Ireland
Germany snatched a second in injury-time when Serge Gnabry ran onto Kai Havertz’s pass
NORTHERN IRELAND (4-5-1): Peacock-Farrell; Dallas, Cathcart, J Evans, Lewis; Saville (Magennis 70), McNair, C Evans, Davis, McGinn (Whyte 59); Washington (Lavery 83).
Subs not used: McGovern, Carson, McLaughlin, Flanagan, Ferguson, Donnelly, Thompson, Lafferty, Boyce
Booked: McNair, Saville
GERMANY (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Krostermann, Ginter (Tah 40), Sule, Halstenberg; Kimmich, Kroos; Gnabry, Reus (Can 85), Brandt; Werner (Havertz 68)
Subs not used: Leno, Ter-Stegen, Hector, Stark, Waldschmidt
Goalscorers: Halstenberg 48, Gnabry 90+3
Referee: Daniele Orsato
Julian Brandt got the faintest of touches to a cross from the right and the ball ran through for Leipzig left-back Halstenberg who despatched it with a ferocious finish into the top corner.
It punished Northern Ireland for failing to exploit the frailties they exposed in a German side that has been overhauled since the last World Cup and lost 4-2 at home to Holland on Friday night.
‘We’re hugely disappointed to lose the game,’ said manager Michael O’Neill. ‘We can be proud of the way we played, but when you get chances of that nature against Germany you have to take them and they made us pay in the second half.
‘We can pat ourselves on the back or say it’s a wasted opportunity – that is how I feel about it and that is how the majority if not all of the players think about it.’
This was by far and away Northern Ireland’s best performance in four games against Joachim Low’s side over the last three years, particularly in a belting first half.
The hosts sensed vulnerability in their opponents and set about trying to ruffle Germany who tried to play the ball out from the back but succeeded only in giving it away with alarming regularity.
It almost cost Germany in the seventh minute when Toni Kroos’ pass was…