Gomez lifts Germany 1-0 past N.Ireland, both into last 16

Mario Gomez grabbed the winner as world champions Germany beat Northern Ireland 1-0 on Tuesday to reach the last 16 at Euro 2016 as group winners.

Northern Ireland also went through as one of the four best third-placed sides following Turkey's win over the Czech Republic while Slovakia have also qualified.

Germany topped Group C with seven points, ahead of fellow qualifiers Poland on goal difference, and have still not conceded ahead of their last 16 date Sunday in Lille against a third-placed finisher.

Besiktas striker Gomez was on target in the 29th minute for a deserved win as Germany played better than in the first two group matches but were also very wasteful.

Almost a dozen other chances went begging, with Thomas Mueller denied by the post and crossbar in the first half against a very defensive Northern Ireland team who were also saved by goalkeeper Michael McGovern in front of a 44,125-strong crowd at the Parc des Princes.

Man-of-the-match Mesut Oezil finally lived up to his reputation while Gomez and Bayern Munich's Joshua Kimmich, both new in the starting 11, also helped Germany's attack after a modest showing upfront in last week's 0-0 draw with Poland.

"I hoped we would score more goals but it was good enough for first place," Gomez said. "We did well to create many chances, we will now go to step two and convert them in the next games."

Coach Joachim Loew also lamented that "we didn't score enough goals" and was not deceived that his side are yet to let in a goal in France.

"It is good to have a clean sheet but our next opponents will be more attack-minded," he said.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill said: "Germany were exceptional on how they moved the ball. Michael had a fantastic night in goal. We have done remarkably well."

The tournament debutant Kimmich and Gomez took the places Benedikt Hoewedes and Julian Draxler as right back and striker respectively while O'Neill trusted the same starting 11 that beat Ukraine 2-0.

The game started slowly but and then burst into life and the determined Germans could have been 3-0 up after 12 minutes.

First McGovern saved from Mueller, Oezil miscued from short range, and McGovern was on his guard again on Mario Goetze's attempt, with Kimmich chipping high on the rebound.

Full backs Kimmich and Jonas Hector were practically wingers against an ultra-defensive opponent, and Oezil an inspiration as Germany pressed on with fluid moves and Mueller running into the spaces he needs.

Mueller, with 10 goals from World Cups but zero at the Euros, fired inches left and headed against the right outside post, on either side of a small chance for Northern Ireland from Jamie Ward's 25m effort at Manuel Neuer.

Two minutes later, in the 29th, the world champions were finally 1-0 ahead. Gomez found Mueller who instead of shooting laid the ball back for Gomez to fire home from 10m for his 28th goal overall and first in an official game since Euro 2012.

Mueller's bad luck continued with a shot against the bar while Gomez should have done much better unmarked from 12m before half-time.

Both teams returned unchanged as rain set in but the one-way traffic continued, and so did the singing of the large contingent of Northern Ireland fans.

Kimmich's long ball was chested down by Goetze whose shot was stopped again by McGovern and who tapped inches left a minute later on another major chance.

Germany later slowed down, and Jerome Boateng was substituted as a precaution owing to calf problems, but McGovern had to save late again from Gomez's header off Kimmich's cross, and Oezil aimed high in the 85th.

"It was a convincing win. It is only a narrow win if the others have chances. They didn't," Gomez said.

Last update: Tue, 21/06/2016 - 23:31
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