Germany needed a late goal by Lukas Podolski to snatch a draw at home to
Finland in their final 2010 World Cup qualifier.
Jonatan Johansson's goal in the 11th minute ended Germany's six-match run
without conceding, dating back to Russia's goal just over a year ago. But Podolski's sixth goal of the qualification campaign finally rescued Germany, in the 90th minute of a match with no bearing on qualification - the hosts already assured of first place and Finland unable to pip Russia for second.
Despite six changes from the weekend victory over Russia which confirmed
Germany's place in South Africa next summer, they started the stronger side. Yet it was the Finns who went ahead when Johansson scored in his 100th international.
Roni Porokara's cross from the left reached Roman Eremenko - who headed on for
Johansson to beat goalkeeper Rene Adler. The visitors restricted Germany to shots from distance, and Michael Ballack's left-footed shot from 18 yards went just over the bar just after the quarter-hour.
Finnish goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen intercepted Andreas Beck's high cross
from the left as Mario Gomez threatened in the 33rd minute. But little else happened in the first half, and the fans in Hamburg spent the final 10 minutes before the break letting their team know their displeasure.
German boss Joachim Low brought in Mesut Ozil and Christian Gentner at the
break, and the Germans came out after the break with crisper passing and more
energy. The Finns stood firm in defence, however.
Finland's Jari Litmanen had his goal four minutes after the re-start ruled out
for offside, and his header in the 52nd was not strong enough to seriously test
Adler from 10 yards. Jaaskelainen had a fine game, stopping Beck's blast in the 67th minute after a cross by Piotr Trochowski - whose rebound attempt went wide.
The hosts continually fed Gomez in the air as they sought a way back into the
match. But the Bayern Munich striker could not find the target a number of times,
perhaps his best opportunity coming and going in the 74th minute.
Germany continued to dominate possession and pushed forward looking for the
equaliser. Ozil collected Beck's cross from the right but put his effort from eight yards
well wide, with 13 minutes left.
Jaaskelainen made a superb save from Miroslav Klose's header from eight yards
with eight minutes left, and Ozil hit the side-netting with Germany's next
Hard as they were trying, it had begun to look as if the hosts would finish
empty-handed. But finally the Germans were rewarded for their efforts after a scramble in the Finnish six-yard box.
Ozil's attempt rebounded to Klose. He in turn found Podolski, whose
right-footer was mishit but crossed the goalline.
Germany full-back Philipp Lahm admitted Germany struggled to break down a
resolute Finland side in Hamburg.
The Bayern Munich defender told ARD: ''We always have trouble playing against
teams that pack their defence, just as we did against Azerbaijan. And that was the case today as well. They scored the goal early and then played defensively.''
The final whistle was greeted with boos at the Nordbank Arena and Lahm said he
could understand the fans' discontent. He added: ''The fans pay to come into the stadium and see goals and we couldn't do that.''
Andreas Beck was also asked about the whistling at the end and said: ''Of
course you don't want that. In the first half we had our difficulties though we
wanted to offer something to the fans. I think (the whistling) was a bit
''We did not play well in the first half but we are satisfied with the second
half, especially because we built up the pressure in front of the home crowd.''
Germany coach Joachim Low saw the experience as a valuable lesson to be
''For sure, we did not play well in the first half,'' he conceded. ''We could not create many chances and allowed a lot of counter-attacks. In the second half we showed our strong morale to not lose this game, and had some good chances.''
Low believes the euphoria of qualification just four days ago meant this was
always going to be an awkward fixture.
''We were not as fresh in the first half as we were against Russia,'' he said. ''But that was tough after such an emotional match. One point we need to look at is when we play against strong defensive teams. We have to look at how to deal with them and different things to do.
''We do have creative players who have solutions for tough situations. Any team
will struggle against opponents who play 10 men in the area - but we have to
learn from this and find different ways to react.
''I know we have a good team and a lot of potential and players who can do
something extraordinary if needed.''
Podolski saved the day and insisted: ''I wouldn't say this is a humiliation. We had our difficulties. But most important was that we scored the goal. We will analyse this game for November and see what we can learn from it.''