Germany handles Georgia, Ireland gets late draw vs. Poland in Group D
TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Germany got its European Championship qualifying campaign back on track with a hard-fought 2-0 win in Georgia on Sunday.
First-half goals from Marco Reus and Thomas Mueller gave Germany its first away win in Group D, as the World Cup winners moved within a point of group leader Poland, which was held to a 1-1 draw by Ireland in the late game.
Ireland substitute Shane Long scored in injury time in Dublin, cancelling out Slawomir Peszko's 26th-minute strike to leave the group finely poised after five rounds.
Unbeaten Poland leads with 11 points, followed by Scotland — which routed tiny Gibraltar 6-1 — and Germany both on 10, while Ireland maintains slim hopes of emerging from the group with eight points.
Earlier in Glasgow, Lee Casciaro scored Gibraltar's first ever goal in a competitive match to cancel out Shaun Maloney's 18th-minute penalty, but the Scots answered with another Maloney penalty, a Steven Naismith goal and three more from Steven Fletcher.
In Tbilisi, Reus scored in the 39th minute when he was free to scoop the ball inside the near post after Mario Goetze tried forcing his way past a number of defenders. Mueller sealed the result five minutes later with a low drive into the bottom corner. Reus also hit the crossbar in both halves.
Georgia was pegged back for long periods in Kakhaber Tskhadadze's first game as coach.
"We're trying to improve ourselves for the future. I'm not unsatisfied with our second-half efforts," said Tskhadadze, who played club football for Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1990s. "We shouldn't forget that we were playing against a top team."
Germany was looking for a convincing performance following a loss to Poland, a home draw with Ireland, and uninspired wins over Scotland and Gibraltar in qualifying.
"Looking at the table we had to win the game, it's clear. I'm satisfied with the first half. We didn't push it in the second," said Loew, whose side was wasteful in the first half and struggled to create the same goal-scoring chances after the break.
Reus rattled the crossbar in the fifth minute, when Giorgi Loria got his fingertips to his deflected shot, and Mueller went close shortly afterward.
It quickly became apparent that Georgia, roared on by enthusiastic fans, was going to have to rely on counterattacks or set pieces in order to score. Captain Jaba Kankava caused some problems in midfield but Germany goalkeeper Manual Neuer ultimately had little to do.
Mesut Ozil, Goetze and Mueller missed good chances before Reus finally broke the deadlock and then Ozil set up Mueller to seal the result with his fifth goal in qualifying.
"We had the game under control but there were times we made it difficult for ourselves," Germany midfielder Toni Kroos said. "It was a bit too hectic. In my opinion we made things too complicated."
The game was held up briefly toward the end when several fans made it onto the pitch to hug players from both sides.