Germany finally won a Nations League game at the seventh attempt, holding on to beat Ukraine 2-1 to ease the pressure growing on coach Joachim Low.
Defender Matthias Ginter and midfielder Leon Gortezka scored to give Low’s team its first win in Group 4 of League A, its first of the year, and coming after three games including the friendly against Turkey in which it squandered leads to draw.
A late penalty from Ruslan Malinovskyi ensured another nervy ending, but a Ukraine side depleted by coronavirus cases and injuries was unable to draw level. Andriy Shevchenko’s side was thrashed by France 7-1 in their friendly on Wednesday.
After drawing with Turkey 3-3 in Cologne the same day, Low restored his regular players in Kyiv, building the team around the Bayern Munich block of Manuel Neuer, Niklas Sule, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry. Leipzig’s Lukas Klostermann and Marcel Halstenberg, and Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos also returned to the starting lineup.
None of them were involved in the opening goal, however, down to good work from defender Antonio Rodiger, who beat his marker and crossed low for Ginter to convert at the far post in the 20th minute. Gnabry tried a back-heel but failed to connect fully before the ball reached Ginter.
It was far from convincing from the visitors, who remained prone to mistakes under pressure from the home side.
A miscued back-pass from Ginter would likely have been punished by Shevchenko in his prime, but the Milan great, now the Ukraine coach, could urge his makeshift team only from the sideline.
Heorhiy Bushchan produced a fine save to stop a dipping shot from Kimmich, then a header from Gnabry, though Germany’s mistakes in buildup play continued.
A mistake from Bushchan gifted the visitors their second goal in the 49th. Klostermann’s cross was simple for the goalkeeper to gather, but he dropped the ball for the grateful Goretzka to head in.
Sule conceded a penalty with a mistimed challenge on Roman Yaremchuk, and Malinovskyi converted from the spot to give the hosts hope in the 77th.
Swiss goalkeeper goof gives Spain 1-0 win in Nations League
Spain needed a passing blunder by Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer to secure a 1-0 win and keep the lead of its Nations League group.
Sommer got flustered by Spain’s pressure and passed the ball past his teammate and directly to Mikel Merino, who set up Real Sociedad clubmate Mikel Oyarzabal to score the game’s only goal in the 14th minute.
Where Sommer let his team down, David de Gea rescued Spain.
Switzerland’s only scoring opportunity came before Oyarzabal’s goal. Silvan Widmer got free on a counterattack and his pass across the area reached fellow wing back Loris Benito arriving alone on the left side. De Gea, however, made a great one-handed save to parry Benito’s powerful strike.
Spain leads Group 4 with 7 points. Germany has 5 points after beating Ukraine 2-1 also on Saturday, leaving Ukraine with 3 points. The Swiss are last with 1 point.
Teenage sensation Ansu Fati, who became Spain’s youngest goal-scorer at age 17 after making his international debut last month, was back in the starting 11 after not playing in a friendly against Portugal that ended 0-0 on Wednesday.
Fati was mostly kept in check, like the rest of his teammates, and coach Luis Enrique substituted him for Adama Traore in the second half.
Traore, who made his international debut against Portugal, slalomed past three defenders on his first touch. His second possession ended with him putting in a dangerous cross.
But other than those flashes by Traore, it was a match that might make Luis Enrique doubt about his choices as he tries to established a new generation of players capable of challenging for a major title.
Ferran Torres had a header that he directed to Sommer, who made the save. Oyarzabal wasted a good chance to score a second goal from close range when he deflected Jesus Navas’ cross wide from close. Merino shot high from the heart of the area.
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