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Germany Defeat Northern Ireland In Hanover

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First-half goals by Julian Draxler and Sami Khedira earned Germany victory over Northern Ireland in their 2018 World Cup Group C qualifier in Hanover.

Draxler unleashed a right-foot shot into the bottom corner on 13 minutes.

Khedira nodded in the second four minutes later after Mats Hummels out-jumped the visitors’ defence to head across goal to the Juventus midfielder.

Northern Ireland are third in the group on four points, with Germany top after winning their first three games.

Azerbaijan remain second in the table having retained their unbeaten record with a goalless draw against the Czech Republic.

Norway secured their first points of the qualifying campaign by defeating San Marino 4-1.

On the defensive

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill’s team selection reflected the change of emphasis from attack for Saturday’s 4-0 win over San Marino to defence for the inevitable rearguard action against the four-time world champions.

Aaron Hughes came in to win his 104th cap and joined fellow experienced defenders Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans in a back three, with Lee Hodson and Shane Ferguson deployed as wing-backs and the defensively-minded Corry Evans named in midfield.

Although the Germans predictably dominated territory and possession, Northern Ireland posed an attacking threat on the counter-attack.

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Josh Magennis, preferred to Kyle Lafferty and Conor Washington in the lone striker role, was the visitors’ stand-out player, working tirelessly throughout.

O’Neill’s men were unable to convert a couple of breakaway chances in the first half, Jamie Ward’s weak finish being easily gathered by Manuel Neuer and Magennis seeing his well-struck drive saved by the Germany goalkeeper.

All over in four minutes

Goalkeeper Michael McGovern was the hero when the sides last met at the Euro 2016 finals in Paris in June, making a number of outstanding saves to keep the final score down to 1-0.

The Norwich stopper was in action early on as he palmed away a Mario Gotze header, but poor defending in the early stages cost Northern Ireland dear as Draxler and Khedira found the net in that decisive four-minute spell.

Draxler shrugged off Gareth McAuley for the opening goal, while Khedira used his height advantage to climb above the Northern Ireland defence for the second.

The hosts had a number of chances to add to their tally in the second half but McGovern was rarely troubled, as Khedira in particular was guilty of profligacy in front of goal.

Man of the match – Josh Magennis

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