Ex-Fiorentina striker Mario Gomez got the only goal as Germany beat Northern Ireland, but Michael McGovern was man of the match.
The reigning World Cup winners hadn’t been entirely convincing thus far, drawing with Poland, but Gomez was drafted in after using a False 9. Kyle Lafferty was dropped again for Northern Ireland, who had three points from their victory over group whipping boys Ukraine.
From the start it was clear Germany were going to pour forward, but Thomas Muller either forced McGovern into a great save or drilled wide of the target.
Mario Gotze also found McGovern’s feet, then Muller’s diving header thumped the upright, but the dam eventually broke when Muller pulled back for Gomez, whose scuffed finish from eight yards took a deflection on its way into the net. It was his first competitive goal for Germany since July 2012.
Germany should’ve been 5-0 up by half-time, but Muller hit the woodwork again, this time a strike coming off the crossbar from 12 yards.
Gomez horribly scuffed another chance set up for him by Mesut Ozil, but this time there was no deflection to save him, while McGovern denied Gotze one-on-one after the restart.
The Northern Ireland goalkeeper continued to be decisive, getting down quickly to palm a Gomez header off the line, then Ozil fired over.
Keeping the scoreline down could well be extremely important, as Northern Ireland wait to see if they are one of the best third-placed teams in the group phase.
Northern Ireland 0-1 Germany
Gomez 30 (G)
Northern Ireland: McGovern; Hughes, McAuley, Cathcart, J Evans; Ward (Magennis 70), C Evans (McGinn 84), S Davis, Norwood, Dallas; Washington (Lafferty 59)
Germany: Neuer; Kimmich, Boateng (Howedes 76), Hummels, Hector; Khedira (Schweinsteiger 69), Kroos; Ozil, Muller, Gotze (Schurrle 55); Gomez
Ref: Turpin (FRA)