Germany vs Romania: Mueller achieves last winner in Neuer's absence

Germany vs Romania: Mueller achieves last winner in Neuer's absence

Thomas Mueller rescued Germany with a late winner as the hosts rallied to earn a nervous 2-1 victory over Romania in Friday's World Cup qualifier to open up a six-point lead at the top of their group. 

Romania took a surprising ninth-minute lead in Hamburg as Rangers winger Ianis Hagi smashed through the defense and edged out German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, a late replacement for the injured Manuel Neuer.

The Romanians led 1-0 at halftime, however Serge Gnabry tied for his 20th goal in 30 internationals after 52 minutes.

Mueller then came off the bench for his 107th appearance in Germany and scored his 40th international goal with nine minutes remaining.

"It was annoying to concede the goal early, but the team struggled, never gave up and played with confidence," said Germany head coach Hansi Flick.

"In the end, the victory is more than deserved, as we dominate for long periods."

The result extends Germany's lead at the top of Group J ahead of Monday's next qualifying game in North Macedonia. A victory in Skopje would put the Germans on the brink of getting their ticket to the World Cup.

“The sooner we qualify, the better. Today was a big step. Now we want to make it clear on Monday, ”said striker Gnabry.

After a surprising loss to North Macedonia in March, Germany got their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track with victories over Liechtenstein, Armenia and Iceland in September on Flick.

This was a much less confident performance from the Germans, who were shaken by falling behind early on, but Flick enjoyed his fourth win in a row.

The Germans were denied a penalty by the VAR after slight contact with Timo Werner, just before Hagi surprised the hosts.

The Rangers forward edged past Chelsea defender Antonio Ruediger and passed the ball over Ter Stegen.

There were nervous looks from the German ranks, similar to those in March, when North Macedonia scored a surprising 2-1 victory in Duisburg, the first time Germany lost a World Cup qualifier in 20 years.

Gnabry, Marco Reus and Werner all had chances for Germany, but it took a long time for the hosts to recover from falling behind.

The hosts tied when Gnabry drilled his shot seven minutes after the break.

Werner and Reus made way for Mueller and Kai Havertz with 20 minutes to go. That changed the game.

Havertz blew a golden opportunity when he slipped behind the defense with the ball at his feet, before Mueller shot the winning goal to the roof of the net after Leon Goretzka's header.

Romania could have achieved a late draw when their captain Vlad Chiriches fired just wide of the German goal.

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