Germany 1-2 North Macedonia: Low's men stunned by late Elmas winner

By Daniel Lewis 1 April 2021 135
Germany 1-2 North Macedonia: Low's men stunned by late Elmas winner

Germany dropped their first points in World Cup 2022 qualifying as they suffered a shock 2-1 loss at home to North Macedonia on Wednesday.

Joachim Low's side had defeated Iceland and Romania in their first two Group J games without conceding, but they were stunned in Duisburg by Eljif Elmas' late goal.

Veteran forward Goran Pandev had earlier given North Macedonia a half-time lead, which Ilkay Gundogan cancelled out with a contentious penalty for Ezgjan Alioski's challenge on Leroy Sane.

But Germany, who had won 18 World Cup qualifiers in a row and were unbeaten in 35 since losing 5-1 to England in 2001, saw Timo Werner miss a glorious chance shortly before Elmas converted Arijan Ademi's cutback to earn a famous win for the visitors.

Leon Goretzka thumped a shot against the crossbar from eight yards inside the first nine minutes and Serge Gnabry wasted two promising opportunities from a similar range, testing Stole Dimitrievski down low from one of them.

North Macedonia slowly started to get at their opponents and, having gone close to an opener through a whipped Alioski free-kick that required a reaction save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Pandev stunned the hosts in first-half stoppage time.

A poor clearance from Emre Can was pounced on and Alioski picked out Enis Bardhi, who played the ball inside the makeshift Germany centre-back for Pandev to calmly slot past stand-in keeper Ter Stegen.

Low turned to Werner and Amin Younes before the hour, switching to a back three in the process, and the change of tactics instantly paid off.

Sane cut inside Alioski and the wing-back was adjudged to have caught his opponent's standing leg, giving Gundogan the chance to drive the ball down the middle from the penalty spot to level up.

Germany should have been in front late on, only for Werner to get his feet in a mix and drag wide of the target with just Dimitrievski to beat, and that proved a costly miss as Elmas made no mistake when teed up by Ademi five minutes later for the winner.

What does it mean? Germany pay for profligacy

Germany put three unanswered goals past Iceland in their opening qualifier, but Low was unhappy with his side's inability to kill off Romania in Sunday's 1-0 victory.

Die Mannschaft had 18 shots in Bucharest but scored from just one of them, though in the end it ultimately did not matter - unlike on Wednesday against North Macedonia.

Low's men had 11 shots this time compared to their opponents' six, the difference being Pandev and Elmas put away their chances. This loss for Germany - a third in 23 matches - leaves them third in Group J, three points behind leaders Armenia, and ends their lengthy unbeaten run in World Cup qualifiers stretching back 20 years.

Elmas shows Werner how to do it

Werner was unselfishly played in by Gundogan, who will perhaps wonder why he did not take on the shot himself in what proved to be a crucial moment in the match.

The miss paved the way for Elmas to win the game and came from Werner's only touch of the ball in the opposition box in his near 40 minutes on the field. Elmas was much more involved, also creating a joint game-high two chances for his team-mates.

Gnabry's off day

Werner was not alone in having a bad day at the office as Gnabry, who scored the winning goal against Romania, wasted a couple of big chances of his own in the first half.

The Bayern Munich forward had three shots in total - the most of any player on the field - and really should have added to a return of 18 goal involvements in his previous 17 matches for Germany.

What's next?

Germany will be looking to respond to this poor performance when they return to action in early June with pre-Euro 2020 friendlies against Denmark and Latvia.

North Macedonia will also take part in the delayed tournament, but they have yet to announce any friendly fixtures before their opening group match with Austria.

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Daniel Lewis