World champions Germany got their Euro 2016 campaign off to a winning start with a 2-0 victory against Ukraine in Lille.
Shkodran Mustafi headed the world champions ahead on 19 minutes before substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger secured all three points for Joachim Low’s side with almost the last kick of the game.
Ukraine did cause Germany a scare just before the break with Yevhen Konoplyanka forcing Jerome Boateng into a clearance off the line before Mykhaylo Fomenko’s side had a goal ruled out for offside seconds later.
But in the end it was a comfortable night for Germany, who kept their unbeaten record in European Championship openers intact.
Both teams are next in action on Thursday, where Germany will face Poland, who beat Northern Ireland earlier on Sunday, while Michael O’Neill’s side are next up for Ukraine.
Germany, who were without the injured Mats Hummels, were tested at the back in just the fifth minute when Manuel Neuer, Germany’s captain for the night, palmed Yevhen Knoplyanka’s curling shot away from goal.
However, Low’s side responded well though with Julian Draxler flashing a shot wide, before Jonas Hector failed to connect with an attempted shot with the Ukraine goal gaping.
Ther Germans continued to press and it was Hummels replacement, Mustafi, who broke the deadlock, powerfully heading Kroos’ inch-perfect free-kick past Andriy Pyatov for his first international goal.
The World Cup winners were in total control, knocking the ball around with ease but they were given a warning in the 27th minute when Neuer was needed to tip Yevhen Khacheridi’s header over the bar.
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Ukraine continued to cause a threat as the first-half drew to a close and they were inches away from an equaliser in the 37th minute when Boateng acrobatically cleared Konoplyanka’s deflected shot off the line.
Seconds later, Mykhaylo Fomenko’s side had the ball in the back of the net but Germany survived with Fedetskiy offside in the build-up.
Germany reasserted their dominance after the break as they went in search of a second and a 30-yard Kroos drive clipped the angle of the goal.
Benedikt Howedes then crossed from the right but Draxler was unable to keep his header down after sneaking in ahead of his marker.
Meanwhile, Ajax striker Arkadiusz Milik broke Northern Ireland hearts on Sunday after rifling home the only goal in their Euro 2016 Group C opener in Nice.
Poland had never won a game before at the European Championship, with three draws and three losses over two appearances in 2008 and 2012 — the latter a tournament that it co-hosted with Ukraine.
Now it can look forward to a spicy tie with neighbour Germany in the Stade de France on June 16 with eyes on a spot in the last 16.
The result dents Northern Ireland’s pre-tournament hopes of qualifying from a tough group as one of the four best third-placed teams, with a win now essential against Ukraine in Lyon the same day.
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