Thomas Mueller leads Germany to 3-0 win over Kazakhstan
ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AP) -Thomas Mueller scored one goal and played a role in two others as Germany cruised to a 3-0 win in Kazakhstan in a World Cup qualifier on Friday.
The victory leaves Germany in control of Group C of European qualifying, ahead of Sweden. Germany will host Kazakhstan on Tuesday in Nuremberg.
"It was our job to win here,'' Germany coach Joachim Loew said. "The game was decided by halftime. We moved the ball well in the first half but it wasn't easy to find space.''
Mueller played a part in Bastian Schweinsteiger's 20th-minute goal, Mario Goetze netted in the 22nd from a pass by Mueller, who completed the win in the 74th.
Germany played Goetze as a "false nine'' because the squad's only striker, Mario Gomez, injured his hamstring in practice and had to sit out the match. Several other regulars were also missing because of injury.
The match kicked off at midnight local time on the artificial pitch at Astana Arena.
Germany had practiced on a similar surface back home and took control from the start as expected, scoring a pair of goals inside a span of three minutes.
Schweinsteiger connected with a pass from Mesut Oezil inside the box, controlled the ball well to shake off two defenders and sent a shot that glanced off the chest of Mueller into the net.
"I think I'll give him 20 percent of the first goal,'' Mueller said after he and Schweinsteiger watched a replay.
Mueller used a mix-up between the Kazakhstan goalkeeper and a defender to roll the ball to Goetze, who fired inside the roof of the net.
Kazakhstan gave the Germans more of a fight in the second half, but Loew's team had also switched down a gear.
Kazakhstan substitute Ulan Konysbaev struck the crossbar in the 69th with a tremendous shot from the edge of the area. One minute later, Schweinsteiger was booked for tripping Konysbaev and will be suspended for the match in Nuremberg.
Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was tested in the 71st when Heinrich Schmidtgal, who plays for bottom-place Greuther Fuerth in the Bundesliga, shot from the left side of the box. Neuer stretched his right arm to turn the ball away.
Shortly after that, Goetze and Oezil combined to set up Mueller for Germany's third goal.
"We took the three points and that's what's important,'' Mueller said. "We can put it behind us now and look ahead.''