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Germany made the perfect start to their Euro 2012 campaign with a hard earned victory over Portugal in Lviv this evening.
With Mario Gomez about to be replaced, he headed in Sami Khedira’s cross to score the only goal of the game and go level with Denmark in Group B after their shock win over Holland earlier in the afternoon.
Despite the pre-match predictions, the opening 15 minutes were played in a tentative manner with only a Mario Gomez header from the penalty spot and a Lukas Podolski shot from the edge of the area causing either keeper any problems. Portugal’s captain and talisman Cristiano Ronaldo was unable to convert his Real Madrid goal scoring form onto the international stage but showed a glimpse of what he can do, beating his man with a series of trademark stepovers but his cross was put behind for a corner with Nani waiting.
As the half progressed, the German side grew in confidence and were content to keep posseission and build from the back, much to the dismay of the Portugese contingent in the crowd. Gomez thought he had put his side in the lead on 23 minutes but the referee had already blown for a free kick before the ball was put into the back of the net. But despite the dominance, they couldn’t turn this into clear chances. Both Podolski and Khedira shot over from good positions and Muller dragged his shot wide without troubling the goal.
But it was Portugal who came closest to breaking the deadlock. Just seconds before half time, a corner found Pepe unmarked in the penalty area who took it down beautifully before striking a lovely curling shot, beating Neuer but hitting the underside of the crossbar and bouncing to safety. Protests about the goal from Ronaldo ensued but replays suggested that the referees assistant made the correct decision.
It was the Portugese that started the second half much the brighter side. Both Ronaldo and Nani had success down their respective wings and forced a number of corners, none of which came to anything. When Ronaldo got a chance to run at the heart of the German defence, he was superbly tackled by Jérôme Boateng as he was about to pull the trigger. Germany were not out of it and only a couple of inches separated Podolski connecting with a Mezut Özil delicate cross.
It took until the 71st minute for the Germans to break the deadlock. Sami Khedira’s cross from the right hand side was deflected onto the head of the soon to be replaced Mario Gomez. He expertly dispatched the header into the back of the net, giving Rui Paricio no chance and sending the vast majority of the crowd in Lviv into a frenzy. He nearly added to that tally five minutes later but he couldn’t get onto the end of Thomas Müller’s excellent cross after a quick counter attack.
Suddenly, Portugal looked much more of a goal threat and came close on a number of occasions but Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo and Fábio Coentrão found Hummels, Neuer or the crossbar in their way. But with just two minutes of the 90 on the clock, some good work from substitue Nelson Oliveira worked the ball into the German penalty area. His cutback found Varela who was superbly denied by Neuer down low. With three minutes of the alloted stoppage time up, Bruno Alves couldn’t keep his header down to ensure that Germany started the tournament with a victory.
Germany 1-0 Portugal (0-0 HT)
Germany: Neuer, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Boateng, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Özil (87 Kroos), T. Müller (90+4 L. Bender), Gomez (80 Klose), Podolski. Manager: Joachim Löw.
Portugal: Rui Patrício, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fábio Coentrão, João Pereira, Miguel Veloso, João Moutinho, Raul Meireles (80 Varela), Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo, Heldér Postiga (70 Oliveira). Manager: Paulo Bento.
Referee: Stephanne Lannoy (France).
Goals: 71 Gomez.
Bookings: 13 Postiga, 43 Badstuber, 60 Fábio Coentrão, 69 Boateng.