Germany stays perfect with 4-1 win against Azerbaijan
Defending champion Germany stayed perfect in World Cup qualifying despite conceding its first goal in Group C with a 4-1 win in Azerbaijan on Sunday. Little-used forward Andre Schuerrle scored two and set up another.
Germany coach Joachim Loew had expressed his faith in Schuerrle before the game, despite him making seven of his 15 Bundesliga appearances and five of his six Champions League games as a substitute for Borussia Dortmund this season.
Loew gave Schuerrle his first Germany start for 1 1/2 years and the 26-year-old broke the deadlock in the 19th minute at the Tofig Bahramov Stadium. Julian Draxler spotted Jonas Hector free to his left and passed for the defender to send it straight back for Schuerrle, who finished from close range.
Just as it seemed the visitors were completely in control, Dimitrij Nazarov equalized in the 31st with a perfectly placed shot inside the far post after four Germany defenders failed to stop Afran Ismaylov from picking him out. It was the first goal Germany had conceded in qualifiers for the 2018 tournament.
Thomas Mueller restored the lead minutes later, running into Schuerrle's pass, taking it past the goalkeeper with his right foot and finishing into the empty net with his left.
Joshua Kimmich crossed for Mario Gomez to make it 3-1 with a header before the break.
The home side started the second half with renewed vigor, though without troubling Bernd Leno, playing instead of the injured Manuel Neuer in the Germany goal.
Germany playmaker Mesut Ozil came on for the final half-hour, but it was Schuerrle who had the final say, blasting the ball to the roof of the net from Hector's pull-back to complete the scoring in the 81st.
Germany, which has five wins from five in Group C, leads by seven points from the Czech Republic, which racked up a 6-0 win in San Marino.
Northern Ireland, one point further back and level with Azerbaijan, was hosting Norway later.