A dour, stuttering Group B game was settled by two German heroes on the night with a Mario Gomez goal 17 minutes from time in Lviv.
The Germans just deserved the win, although Portugal’s performance in the last 15 minutes ensured it was a nervy finish to the game, with Manuel Neuer the other German hero.
The game started brightly with Mario Gomez forcing Rui Patricio into a good save after only two minutes, but it slowed down into a nervy, dour affair. Lukas Podolski also had an early chance after Mario Gomez played a fantastic pass along the full 18 yard line, but Patricio was equal to it.
Manuel Neuer caused some controversy in the 12th minute when he dived under Helder Postiga’s challenge, leading to a booking for the Portuguese striker. Admittedly, the challenge wasn’t great but Neuer jumping 4ft in the air completely conned referee Stephane Lannoy. A poor show from the German goalkeeper.
The Germans were controlling the possession but doing little with it. Mario Gomez had a goal chalked off in the 24th minute as the referee had blown for a German free-kick, Despite some shouts from Twitter that the ref should have played the advantage, the game had completely stopped, the only reason Gomez got a shot away.
Portugal seemed to take fright from this and parked the bus behind the ball after the disallowed goal. Germany really struggled to break down their dogged defence, although Podolski did make space in the box at the half hour mark. However, he skied the shot and I believe it’s currently seeking permission to continue its path through Ukrainian airspace. The half ended with Portugal going closest to scoring.
The ball fell to Pepe from a corner, and his side footed shot rattled the bar and bounced right on the line and out of the goal area. TV replays showed the officials made the right decision not to award a goal. Hopefully this would spark the game into life in the second half!
Germany did start the second half just like the first, getting a corner within 60 seconds of the restart after Thomas Muller’s blocked shot fell to Mesut Ozil, but his shot was deflected for a wasted corner. This seemed to wake the Portuguese up, who started to show some fire which wasn’t there in the first half. They even started to get on top in the game but did little to show for it. Ronaldo had a good chance to take the lead for Portugal but Jerome Boateng’s fantastic challenge stopped Neuer being called into action.
The game then went into a lull until Mario Gomez scored to send the Germans into the lead, slightly against the run of play. A fantastic ball from the back went to Muller on the right wing, who took a couple of touches before sending a delightful cross into the penalty box. It landed square on Gomez’s head, and a fantastic header left Patricio grasping at the air as the ball nestled in the back of the net. A perfect cross was met with perfect technique and it was 1-0 to Germany!
Gomez almost sent Germany 2-0 up a few minutes later, but he just missed Podolski’s cross, it was reminiscent of Gazza’s failed attempt in Euro ’96. The game opened up after that as Portugal attacked, desperate for the equaliser.
They had numerous chances after the Germany goal as they sat back and soaked up the pressure. Neuer was forced into a good save from a Ronaldo shot which swerved at the last moment. Neuer then almost went from hero to villain as he misjudged yet another high ball. Nani’s cross left the goalkeeper in no man’s land but it rebounded off the bar, much to Manuel’s relief.
Neuer then sealed the three points for Germany with only a few minutes left as the Portuguese subs combined for Portugal’s best chance of the match. Oliveira did well to keep the ball in play then make space in the German penalty area before he squared the ball across goal to the onrushing Varela. However, Neuer’s point blank save made sure Portuguese hearts were broken, and the game finished 1-0 to Germany.
The Germans will be looking forward to the Holland game on Wednesday, where another win would surely knock the Dutch out of the competition. Portugal will look to take the performance of the last 15 minutes into the game against Denmark, where they cannot lose or they too will be looking at flight times back home.
Germany: Neuer, Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Muller(Bender 90+’), Ozil(Kroos 87′), Podolski, Gomez(Klose 80′).
Unused Subs: Wiese, Gundogan, Schmelzer, Howedes, Schurrle, Mertesacker, Gotze, Reus, Zieler.
Portugal: Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, Meireles(Varela 81′), Veloso, Joao Moutinho, Nani, Postiga(Nelson Oliveira 70′), Ronaldo.
Unused Subs: Eduardo, Custodio, Almeida, Quaresma, Ricardo Costa, Rolando, Ruben Micael, Miguel Lopes, Hugo Viana, Beto.
Referee: Stephane Lannoy (France)