By David Ljunggren
LVIV, June 9 Germany again demonstrated their
ability to grind out crucial victories in big tournaments on
Saturday, battering Portugal for much of a frustrating Euro 2012
Group B encounter before Mario Gomez pounced to secure a 1-0
The game never lived up to expectations and looked to be
heading for a goalless stalemate, particularly after the Germans
spurned a number of good chances.
The importance of not giving up showed its worth yet again
in the 72nd minute when a deep right-wing cross from Sami
Khedira flicked off a Portuguese defender and Gomez for once
found himself free to nod home the winner.
"We started in this tournament with music but we have to
improve... We'll have to attack with more focus but I'm
confident we'll succeed in doing that," said German coach
Joachim Loew, who at one point in the first half jumped from the
bench to berate his players.
Germany are now favorites to qualify from a tough group,
especially after the fancied Dutch team surprisingly lost 1-0 to
Denmark in the earlier game.
Portugal hit the bar twice but otherwise rarely threatened
and coach Paolo Bento will surely be worried by the ease with
which the Germans stifled Portugal's rocket-heeled wingers
Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani.
Both had had frustrating evenings as a disappointing
Portugal, who have now won just one of their last seven games,
only looked dangerous in the last 10 minutes.
"I am sad about the result because we had a stronger first
half ... we have to concentrate in second game and we have to
win it," said Bento.
Germany dominated yet almost went behind when Portuguese
defender Pepe hit a close range shot against the crossbar late
in the first half. The ball bounced down onto the line and was
Gomez, preferred up front to Miroslav Klose, made no mistake
when he evaded the diligent Portuguese defense and headed home
his 23rd international goal.
"I had a good feeling from the start here and I wanted to
give something back for the trust (the coach put on me)," he
told German television.
"It was clear when Miro (Klose) was on the bench and would
come in for me at the end for a few minutes. It's hard to head
in a ball when you're taking a step backwards but I think the
ball was deflected a bit so it worked out."
In a flat first half German fans caused almost as much
excitement off the pitch, throwing what appeared to be rolled up
pieces of paper at the Portuguese players on several occasions
in the first half.
Authorities warned supporters three times that such behavior
could force the match to be abandoned.
Germany twice tested Rui Patricio in the first 10 minutes
through a header from Gomez and a Lukas Podolski shot that the
keeper grabbed at the second attempt. Podolski later skied an
effort well over the bar from just outside the box.
Portugal, who have scored just once in their last four
matches, did little with Helder Postiga alone up front,
supported by widemen Ronaldo and Nani.
They only came to life late on when substitute Silvestre
Varela hit the bar with a cross from the right and then saw a
close range effort well saved by German keeper Manuel Neuer.
Although Bento said he was happy with Ronaldo's performance,
the Real Madrid forward did not impress and cemented his
reputation for producing memorable performances at club level
and falling short for Portugal.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren, Additional reporting by Erik
Kirschbaum in Berlin, editing by Justin Palmer)