Podolski signs off with a stunner as England lose to Germany
Gareth Southgate beaten for the first time in low key friendly as his side rarely threaten in Dortmund
Germany 1 England 0
A stunning goal from Lukas Podolski sunk England in Dortmund as Germany inflicted a first defeat on Gareth Southgate since he was appointed manager of the national side.
The match, a loosener for both countries before the weekend's World Cup qualifiers, felt flat throughout, perhaps because of the dreadful events in London a few hours earlier, although that didn't prevent some travelling English fans behaving thuggishly with childish chants about the Second World War.
The truth is Germany were rarely stretched despite the best endeavours of the English, and it was a match that failed to set the blood racing. Except for that goal from Podolski on 69 minutes.
What a strike it was, and on his last appearance for Germany after 130 outings for his country. Arsene Wenger failed to find the key to unlock Podolski's brilliance during his two and a bit seasons at Arsenal, but in a German shirt the 31-year-old has never failed to shine, and his 49th goal for his country was arguably his finest. Collecting a pass from Emre Can, Podolski jinked to his left and unleashed a lightening strike from 30 yards into top left-hand corner of Joe Hart's net.
It was a screamer, a perfect way for Podolski to sign off from international football, and a reminder, too, that England for all their energy lack a killer touch in front of goal.
Dele Alli should have given the visitors the lead in the first-half when he shot from point-blank range, but his effort was straight at Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who made the save. The German goalkeeper needed his post to keep out Adam Lallana's strike but other than those chances England rarely threatened Ter Stegen's goal.
Not that Germany made many chances, during a game that at times felt like a testimonial for Podolski, but the world champions have still not conceded a goal since the 2016 European championships, a seven-game streak that underlines their defensive organisation. That was all the more impressive in Dortmund considering it was an experimental German side with an average age of 24.3 as opposed to England’s 26.5.
Southgate, who went for a new 3-4-3 system, will have been heartened by the debut of Michael Keane, although greater tests lie ahead for the Burnley centre-back and his teammates.
Will he be the latest Three Lion to perform well in a meaningless friendly or gentle World Cup qualifier only to fall apart in the tournament proper? It's been the English custom for a generation, and Southgate's biggest challenge between now and next year's World Cup in Russia is to build a squad that doesn't crack when the pressure's on.
"It is never nice to lose and I am not someone who is overly pleased in defeat but I have to be really pleased with the way my players have played individually and in terms of the tactical system,” said Southgate. “The way that worked and their ability to adapt quickly was excellent and, until the goal, I thought we were the better side."
Next up for England is Lithuania in Sunday's World Cup qualifier at Wembley, the next step on the Three Lions road to Russia. They'll beat Lithuania and qualify for next year's World Cup, the fans know that, but on the evidence of last night this England squad is still some way off being a serious contender.