Germany’s World Cup hero Mario Goetze again put his club woes behind him to score twice as the world champions beat Poland 3-1 in an entertaining Euro 2016 qualifier on Friday to take over at the top of Group D and avenge last year’s defeat.
Goetze, who has been struggling for first team action at champions Bayern Munich over the past two seasons under coach Pep Guardiola, scored with a fine solo effort in the 19th minute after Thomas Mueller had put the hosts in front.
A third Bayern player, Poland captain Robert Lewandowski, cut the deficit with a diving header from Kamil Grosicki’s superb left-wing cross with the outside of his right foot.
Goetze, who scored the winner against Argentina in the World Cup final last year, sealed Germany’s win eight minutes from time on the rebound after keeper Lukasz Fabianski had saved a shot from Mueller.
Both teams had plenty more chances in a flowing, attacking game but Germany, who had lost 2-0 in Warsaw last October, proved more efficient and took over at the top of Group D on 16 points from seven games, two ahead of Poland. Ireland are third on 14 after beating Gibraltar 4-0.
“The expectation was to win it. That was the most important thing,” Germany coach Joachim Loew told reporters. “Overall the first 35 minutes we played very well. We made some mistakes and I would have liked to see less.
“Mario was superb tonight. He was moving a lot, going deep or pulling back and how he scored those two goals was just classy.”
Germany next play Scotland, who lost 1-0 in Georgia earlier on Friday, in Glasgow on Monday.
With Liverpool’s Emre Can making his debut as right back, the hosts set a high tempo from the start, quickly carving out a brace of chances with Karim Bellarabi.
Mueller then made no mistake when a fine combination between Jonas Hector and Bellarabi found him in front of goal with an easy tap-in.
Goetze, doubled their lead when he picked the ball up on the edge of the area, shook off two markers and rifled a shot through the legs of a third player.
“I found out only yesterday that I would start and it is a great feeling, ” Goetze said. “To help the team with two goals is just fantastic.”
The Poles responded with a trademark goal, scoring on the break in the 37th minute, with Lewandowski taking his tally to eight in the qualifying campaign.
Lewandowski then had a golden chance to level on the stroke of halftime when he had only Manuel Neuer to beat but the keeper stood his ground to save.
Germany re-established control with Goetze rattling the post following a superb through ball from Ilkay Guendogan on the hour.
Late efforts by the Poles to equalise foundered against a disciplined Germany back line before Goetze struck again.
Ireland striker Robbie Keane struck twice while defender Cyrus Christie and substitute Shane Long were also on target in a 4-0 win over Gibraltar in their Euro 2016 qualifier as they moved into third place behind Poland.
Ireland, who host Georgia on Monday, are now a point ahead of Scotland, who lost 1-0 in Georgia, but four behind leaders Germany.The Germans visit Scotland also on Monday.
Elsewhere Romania battled to a 0-0 draw away to Hungary in their Euro 2016 Group F qualifier on Friday but lost top spot to Northern Ireland as a 34-year-old curse remained intact.
Hungary last beat their arch-rivals in 1981 and could not do it this time either in a bad-tempered match with few chances.
The draw saw Romania slip to second place with 15 points from seven games, a point behind Northern Ireland who won 3-1 away to the Faroe Islands. Hungary are third on 12 points.
Albania remain on course for an unlikely first appearance in the European championship finals after holding Denmark to a goalless away draw in Group I on Friday.
Denmark found themselves frustrated by an aggressive Albanian defence in Copenhagen and though the Danes dominated possession in the first half, with young Midtjylland winger Pione Sisto looking particularly bright, they failed to convert their dominance into clear-cut chances. Denmark peppered the Albania goal in the second half but could not make the breakthrough.
Azerbaijan’s Croatian coach Robert Prosinecki saw a goalless Euro 2016 qualifying draw against his compatriots as a major step forward in his team’s bid to improve.
The Azeris stifled out the visitors with a packed defence and former Croatia midfielder Prosinecki, who helped his country to a third-place finish in the 1998 World Cup, was pleased with the effort.
“We held one of the best national teams in Europe whose players ply their trade for the continent’s top clubs, so we have to take a lot of positives from this game,” Prosinecki told reporters.
“It is just reward for our hard work and also a major confidence boost as it shows that we are moving in the right direction.”
The result stretched Prosinecki’s unbeaten run as Azerbaijan coach to three games after a 2-0 home win over Malta and a 0-0 draw in Norway.
Fifth in Group H, Azerbaijan have no chance of reaching next year’s tournament in France but the outcome has piled the pressure on the Croatians, whose next game is away to Norway on Sunday.