Jon Brodkin

Dortmund: The roar in this stadium was probably heard in Hamburg as Germany struck in stoppage-time to claim a second straight win on Wednesday night. Luck appeared to have deserted the home side moments earlier when they hit the woodwork twice in one move through Miroslav Klose and Michael Ballack, but then came the breakthrough which justified the moves of the coach Jurgen Klinsmann. One substitute, David Odonkor, crossed for another, Oliver Neuville, to finish.

It gave Germany their first win over a European team at a major tournament since the final of Euro 96 and leaves them cruising towards the second round. Poland will feel they were undermined by the red card shown to Radoslaw Sobolewski 15 minutes from the end. He received what looked a soft second booking after a check on Klose.

With better finishing, though, and without some strong saves by Artur Boruc, Germany would have wrapped up the game without need for such late redemption against gritty opponents. The Poland-born strikers Klose and Lukas Podolski missed chances and Neuville, too, had been denied.

German expectations had been raised by their team's 4-2 win over Costa Rica in the opening match and the return of the captain Ballack, who missed the first game because of a calf injury. They knew, too, that Poland had never beaten Germany or West Germany in 14 matches stretching back to 1933.

Poland's players had spent the build-up emphasising their belief that they could cause an upset and knew they had to get at least a draw after their defeat by Ecuador. One Polish paper made the point that a shock was at least possible by printing a picture of the former East Germany's Trabant car. The Germans Don't Get Everything Right, said the headline.

Far from overawed

The initial play from Poland, which combined an appetite for battle with a desire to get into advanced areas, suggested they were far from overawed. The packed and atmospheric Westfalenstadion must have brought home to them the scale of the occasion as well as the task in front of them and Celtic's Maciej Zurawski soon worked a half-chance to give his team the lead but scuffed his shot to allow Jens Lehmann an easy early save.

Though Germany's initial thrusts lacked the incisiveness of their opening match, in which they scored twice in the first 17 minutes, Klose was presented with two good openings inside the first quarter.

The first, from a Ballack pass, saw him draw a sharp save from Boruc. The second culminated in his kicking a post in frustration, knowing he should have scored from Philipp Lahm's perfect cross.

Lahm marked

Lahm had obviously been identified as a threat by Poland's coach Pawel Janas, who pushed a right midfielder, either Ireneusz Jelen or Jacek Krzynowek, high up the pitch to occupy the left-back and try to prevent him from getting forward.

So Lahm had to ration his bursts, which had been highly effective against Costa Rica. Having set up that chance for Klose he then made two for Lukas Podolski, who drew a save with one shot and sent another effort narrowly wide of the post with almost the final kick of the first half.

Krzynowek was guilty of not tracking back properly on that occasion and was reminded of his duties in no uncertain terms. Podolski's two opportunities told of the growing grip that Germany had on the game after struggling at first to find the sort of rhythm they would have liked and finding themselves pushed back.

Poland, at least in the first half-hour, had got upfield to decent effect without seriously looking like scoring. They seemed to have decided that forcing Germany back was the best tactic, looking to expose their opponents' soft underbelly rather than allowing them to thrive with their lively attack. That required power and grit in midfield, and it showed Poland's willingness to indulge in such tasks that they collected two bookings inside half an hour.

Delivery off-target

Apart from Lahm's runs, Ballack's passing was the avenue which threatened to provide openings but the German delivery from wide areas, like that from set pieces, generally lacked quality if Lahm was not involved. When Bernd Schneider did send over a good cross early in the second half, Klose failed to make proper contact and another chance was spurned.

Generally Schneider and the second winger, Bastian Schweinsteiger, were disappointing in possession and Poland, after surviving a burst of early second-half pressure, were starting to look comfortable. When Klose brought another save from Boruc it stemmed from a free-kick, and Klinsmann signalled his attacking intent by bringing on David Odonkor to get at Poland down the right in the 64th minute.

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

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