Germany brush aside Austria, banish defensive worries

Reuters

MUNICH (Reuters) - Miroslav Klose equalled Gerd Mueller's 39-year-old German scoring record as his side sailed to a 3-0 win over neighbours Austria and brushed aside recent defensive worries in a World Cup qualifier on Friday.

Germany had conceded nine goals in three friendlies, including a 3-3 home draw with Paraguay last month, but their rearguard rarely gave Austria a look-in.

Polish-born Klose, earlier denied by a superb Robert Almer save, broke through with his 68th goal in 129 appearances, equalling Mueller's mark which has stood since 1974.

Austria made a game of it for the first 50 minutes but the match petered out after Toni Kroos scored from outside the area early in the second half.

Thomas Mueller completed the scoring as Germany, with captain Philipp Lahm making his 100th appearance, continued their relentless progress towards Brazil.

It was Germany's ninth successive win over their smaller neighbours, whose last victory in the fixture was in 1986.

"We did our homework, we defended well, we played with the right aggression and intensity," coach Joachim Loew told ZDF television.

Germany have 19 points out of a possible 21 in Group A, five clear of Sweden who beat Ireland 2-1. Austria, who last qualified for the World Cup in 1998, have 11 and are still in the race for second place and a possible playoff spot.

DOUBLE SAVE

Germany had already created several chances before Klose gave them the lead.

Sami Khedira's shot flashed wide from 20 metres after 10 minutes, then Klose intercepted a back pass by Christian Fuchs and broke clear but fired into side netting.

Mesut Ozil also threatened with a shot from the edge of the area before Almer, who plays for German second division Energie Cottbus, produced a brilliant double save.

First, he stopped a Marco Reus shot and then managed to get up and punch away Klose's looping header from under the crossbar.

But there was nothing he could do when Mueller whipped in a vicious low cross from the right and, after Emanuel Pogatetz got a touch, the ball ricocheted off Klose and into the net for a typically opportunist goal.

Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer had to wait 40 minutes before making his first real save from a low David Alaba shot and was also tested by Aleksandar Dragovic's looping effort just before the break.

Austria began the second half brightly but Kroos's goal effectively ended the contest.

Defender Per Mertesacker won possession just inside his own half and found Reus, who pulled the ball back for Kroos to send a curling shot into the far corner.

"That was offensive defending, winning the ball in the opponents' half" said Loew. "The decisive moment with that goal was when Mertesacker won the ball."

After a sleepy half hour, the game finished with a flourish when Kroos split the Austria defencer and found substitute Benedikt Hoewedes, who laid the ball off for Mueller to score from close range.

(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Ed Osmond Reuters Messaging: brian.homewood.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net. To sign up for our Global Sports Forum chatroom, click on https://forms.thomsonreuters.com/global_sports_forum)

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