German players celebrate after their victory. DPA/PA Images
Off the Mark

Germany struggle to 2-0 win over Liechtenstein as life under Flick begins

Timo Werner and Leroy Sane grabbed the winning goals in this World Cup qualifier.

GERMANY LABOURED TO a 2-0 win over minnows Liechtenstein in World Cup qualifying on Thursday as Hansi Flick made a low-key debut at the helm.

Chelsea striker Timo Werner broke the deadlock just before half-time in St Gallen before Leroy Sane doubled the lead late in a frustrating second half for Flick’s side.

“We knew they defend really well, but we didn’t make the most of our chances and, of course, we should have done better,” Flick told RTL.

“It’s a start, but we still have a long way to go and we have an important game on Sunday.”

Germany now sit just a point behind Group J leaders Armenia after they were held to a goalless draw by North Macedonia.

The Germans host Armenia in Stuttgart on Sunday, then play Iceland away next Wednesday, with Flick demanding nine points from this month’s three qualifiers.

There were plenty of glum German faces after the final whistle, while hosts Liechtenstein celebrated the narrow defeat with their fans.

“We’ll take the win, but we wanted more goals,” said Germany captain Joshua Kimmich, deputising for the injured Manuel Neuer.

“They stood very, very deep in defence and nothing really worked for us.”

This was Flick’s first match after replacing Joachim Loew, who stood down following Germany’s last-16 exit from Euro 2020 at the hands of England.

Germany went from the highs of winning the 2014 World Cup under Loew, with Flick as his assistant, to the lows of crashing out in the group stage four years later in Russia and suffering a 6-0 drubbing by Spain last November.

“It’s a new beginning, we’re starting from zero,” insisted Germany team director Oliver Bierhoff in the build-up, but, just as they often did recently under Loew, they struggled in front of goal.

Flick became increasingly frustrated on the sidelines at the Kybun Park, Liechtenstein’s adopted home in Switzerland while their own is renovated.

The expected flood of goals never materialised, such as when Germany hammered Liechtenstein 9-1, 8-2, 6-0 and 4-0 in their previous meetings since 1996.

Flick opted to start with Chelsea’s Kai Havertz playing just behind his Blues team-mate Werner as Kimmich captained Germany for only the second time.

Liechtenstein are ranked 189th in the world, just behind Bhutan and Bangladesh.

Yet the team of mainly semi-professionals managed to keep 16th-ranked Germany out until just before the break when Jamal Musiala split the hosts’ defence with a superb pass which Werner tucked into the net.

In a bid to freshen the attack, Flick brought on Marco Reus and Serge Gnabry among four second-half changes, yet the Germans squandered most of the few chances they created.

Flick punched the air when Sane finally crashed his shot into the far corner with a tidy finish, but he has much to do if Germany are to challenge for next year’s World Cup.

© – AFP, 2021

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