England v Germany
19 Nov 2013 - 8:00 PM
England suffered a disappointing end to 2013 as Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker gave Germany a 1-0 win at Wembley in a match where neither team truly hit the heights.
Following Friday’s 2-0 defeat by Chile, Roy Hodgson would have been hoping to go into the New Year with a notable victory under his belt.
But Mertesacker’s 39th-minute header sealed Germany a win under the Arch and they will go into next year’s World Cup as one of the favourites to lift the trophy for a fourth time.
England made a promising start to warm the 85,000 fans inside Wembley on a chilly November evening. They enjoyed a large chunk of possession in their opponents’ half, albeit without fashioning any openings.
Indeed, the first sight at goal from either side did not come about until the 13th minute when Heiko Westermann headed Marco Reus’s free-kick wide of Joe Hart’s right-hand upright. The Three Lions’ first chance was also a header as Wayne Rooney nodded Tom Cleverley’s cross just over the top of the German bar.
The pace of the game was less frantic than it was against Chile and England were seeing more of the ball than they did four days ago with Tottenham’s Andros Townsend proving to be the most dangerous attacking threat.
However, with England unable to test Roman Weidenfeller in the German goal the visitors punished Hodgson’s charges shortly before the break.
Hart had excelled himself when parrying Mertesacker’s header and then turning Max Kruse’s follow-up behind for a corner, though there was little he could do to prevent the Gunners defender from giving his side the lead just moments later.
Mertesacker tried again from another Lars Bender corner but Rooney cleared the danger. The ball fell kindly to the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder, who sent in a teasing cross which his captain rose above Chris Smalling to direct into the far corner.
In a half of very few chances, England did not deserve to be behind and in an attempt to restore parity before the half-time whistle sounded, Gerrard let fly from 25 yards with a trademark effort, however it was just too high to trouble Weidenfeller.
There was more zip to the game at the start of the second half and Reus had a great opportunity to double the visitors’ advantage after some good work from his old Borussia Dortmund club-mate Mario Gotze.
The diminutive attacker jinked through the centre of the England backline before the ball was nudged out wide to Reus. But Germany’s No.21 couldn’t find a way past Hart who pulled off another smart save.
Hodgson’s men, though, refused to lie down and they came straight back at Germany as Townsend cut in from the right flank and smashed a 25-yard shot against the post.
Both managers made a raft of second-half substitutions and, although this usually affects a game’s flow, in this instance the number of changes appeared to open things up for a period, for Germany created another chance for Gotze, who saw an angled drive repelled by Hart. And then Sidney Sam, on for Kruse, lifted an effort onto the roof of the net after being put through by Toni Kroos.
Everton youngster Ross Barkley, who replaced Rooney, then sent in a deep cross towards Smalling, but Julian Draxler deflected it behind.
And Although Townsend unsuccessfully tried his luck from distance once more, proceedings petered to a close, with the Germans happy to see the game out.
Despite ending the year with back-to-back home defeats, England fans can still look back on 2013 with a degree of satisfaction, having qualified unbeaten for the World Cup Finals.