Euro 2012 qual. - Gomez double gives Germany win

Fri, 03 Jun 21:44:00 2011

Mario Gomez scored late in each half as Germany, who knocked hosts Austria out of Euro 2008 in Vienna, won 2-1 at the same stadium to virtually end their neighbour's hopes of reaching next year's tournament.

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Austria, who had a new lease of life after dismal defeats by Belgium and Turkey earlier this year, did more than enough to end a run of five successive defeats against their neighbours.

But all they had to show for their efforts was an Arne Friedrich own goal early in the second half of an absorbing Euro 2012 Group A qualifier that was balanced on a knife edge.

There was a certain inevitability about the outcome as Gomez took advantage of two defensive lapses, the second in the 90th minute, to chalk up a sixth successive group win.

With 18 points from six games, Germany have almost clinched a place in Poland and Ukraine but Austria stay fourth with seven points, four adrift of Belgium, who have played a game more, and three behind Turkey after they drew 1-1 in Brussels.

The Austrians need to finish second to have any chance of qualifying through the playoffs but with only four matches left, including one in Germany, that looks beyond them.

"We made lots of mistakes, we were a little bit lucky to win the game today," Friedrich told ARD television. "It was an important win although we did play as well as we could."

Coach Joachim Loew said Germany, missing key midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and talismanic striker Miroslav Klose through injury, made too many mistakes.

"We were rather lucky," he agreed.

Austria and Germany used to be share one of Europe's fiercest rivalries but recent matches have become embarrassingly one-sided following the former's decline.

Austria have not beaten Germany in a competitive match since their 3-2 win at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina and their last victory in a friendly was 25 years ago. Recent results have included 3-0 3-1 6-2 and 5-1 wins for the Germans.

When the two sides last met, at Euro 2008 which Austria co-hosted with Switzerland, Michael Ballack's goal gave Germany a 1-0 win which ended Austria's hopes on the only occasion they have ever played at the European championship.

Gomez was among eight survivors from that game - four on each side - while Austria's starting line-up included five German-based players.

A lively start saw Martin Harnik head narrowly wide in the fourth minute for Austria before the visitors replied by creating a flurry of chances.

The best opportunity saw Gomez flick the ball wide of the post after a quick-passing move sliced open the Austria defence before Lukas Podolski rifled a left-foot shot against the crossbar from 25 metres.

Gomez headed into the arms of Christian Graetzei from five metres but after that Austria were the better side.

Erwin Hoffer had the hosts' best first-half chance, poking the ball wide after a superb drag-back, but Germany went ahead with their next attack when Gomez scored from close range as the Austrians failed to clear a corner.

The home side were level five minutes after the restart when Florian Klein found David Alaba free on the left with a raking cross-field pass and the 18-year-old's low cross was turned into his own goal by Friedrich.

Stefan Kulovits headed against the post in Austria's next attack as they continued to pressure the visitors.

Austria left controversial striker Marko Arnautovic out of the squad and flourished without him, putting the Germans under constant pressure and showing plenty of inspiration.

Instead, in a cruel finale, it was Germany who won the game as Gomez got in front of his marker to head in a Philippe Lahm cross in the 90th minute for his 18th goal in 45 internationals.

"If we had taken a third of our chances, we could have scored three goals," said Harnik.

Turkey came from behind to draw 1-1 with Belgium, a result that leaves the visitors best placed to secure second spot behind runaway leaders Germany in Euro 2012 Group A qualifying.

Belgium maintained their one-point cushion over Turkey but wasted a great chance when Axel Witsel missed a penalty with 15 minutes left.

Turkey, coached by Chelsea target Guus Hiddink, have a game in hand on the Belgians in the chase for a play-off spot. Germany lead the way with 18 points from six matches. Hiddink described it as "a very good result".

"We can be satisfied with a draw," the Dutchman said. "We started very sloppily... it was a stupid foul (by Arda Turan) to give away the penalty and we were lucky they missed it.

"I don't think the team would have had the power to overcome it," added Hiddink before deflecting away a series of questions about his future.

Belgium opened the scoring after four minutes, Marvin Ogunjimi grabbing his fourth goal in six matches as he profited from a slip by Turkey left back Caglar Birinci.

The visitors equalised midway through the first half when Arda Turan ran down the right and set up Burak Yilmaz for an easy tap-in.

Belgium had chances to go back in front before Turan presented them with a golden opportunity in the 75th minute when he brought down substitute Dries Mertens, only for Witsel to blaze his penalty over.

Coach Georges Leekens said his Belgium team deserved to win because Turkey had clearly come for a draw.

"It doesn't change a lot," said Leekens. "There's no disappointment... except for the result."

He also refused to criticise Witsel for his penalty miss. "I don't blame anyone who takes the responsibility... we should have put in the other chances but it was a turning point."

The Belgians have not qualified for a major tournament since the 2002 World Cup.

Kazakhstan beat fellow Group A outsiders Azerbaijan for their first win in Euro 2012 qualifying, with two goals from Sergey Gridin.

Azerbaijan had stunned Euro 2008 semi-finalists Turkey with a surprise 1-0 win last October but were unable to hold off bottom-placed Kazakhstan who had not scored a single goal in their five previous games.

Gridin put Kazakhstan ahead in the 57th minute before Azerbaijan's Vugar Nadirov equalised in the 63rd minute, two minutes after coming on as a substitute.

Gridin, playing his debut game in the qualifiers, sprinted up the left flank to take a pass from Sergey Ostapenko and shot into the far corner of the net to get his second goal, in the 68th minute.

Reuters

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