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World Cup 2018 qualifiers: Germany cruise to win as England draw blanks against Slovenia

Germany's midfielder Julian Draxler (C-L), Germany's midfielder Thomas Mueller (C, bottom, hidden) and Germany's midfielder Sami Khedira (C-R) vie for the ball with Czech Republic's defender Tomas Sivok (C, top) during the 2018 World Cup qualifier Photograph: (AFP)

Hanover, Germany Oct 12, 2016, 01.57 AM (IST)

World champions Germany struck twice in four first-half minutes to beat Northern Ireland 2-0 in their 2018 World Cup qualifier on Tuesday and stretch their winning run in Group C with their best ever start in a tournament qualification.

Julian Draxler's 13th-minute strike put them ahead and Sami Khedira added another goal as Germany killed off the game for their third win in three qualifiers in their best start to a World Cup or Euro qualification with no goals conceded.

Germany, who made three times as many passes as the Irish, are top with nine points, two clear of Azerbaijan, who drew 0-0 away to the Czech Republic. The Irish stay third on four points.

Northern Ireland, who battled hard in a 1-0 Euro 2016 group stage defeat by Germany, were no match for the hosts, who had over 75 percent possession and were never really threatened.

"We did our job. We got the six points we wanted from our (latest) two qualifiers," said Loew, who equalled former Germany coach Sepp Herberger's record 94 wins.

"Northern Ireland were defending deep in their half and it was at times difficult for us."

"We were in a good run after our win over the Czechs (on Saturday). I wanted two or three goals in the first half to be able to then rest some players."

Messy performance mars Southgate's audition

England interim manager Gareth Southgate is halfway through his audition for the full-time job but his hopes were hardly helped by an ugly performance in a 0-0 draw in Slovenia on Tuesday.

Southgate claims he inherited a "mess" after replacing Sam Allardyce, who lasted only 67 days in the job, and the display in Ljubljana was anything but pretty.

England rode their luck to stay top of Group F and on course for the 2018 Russia World Cup, thanks to some outstanding goalkeeping by Joe Hart, but there were few positives in a shapeless display that classier opposition than 67th-ranked Slovenia would have punished.

His decision to drop skipper and England's all-time leading scorer Wayne Rooney in favour of Eric Dier was hardly a qualified success with the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder almost gifting Slovenia an early goal.

Jordan Henderson, who wore the captain's armband, struggled to exert much authority and he too was guilty of a careless pass that would have led to a Slovenia goal after the break but for another fine intervention by the over-worked Hart.

When Rooney did finally come off the bench in the 73rd minute he almost gave his side an undeserved lead with a shot that flashed past the post, but there was precious little to excite the visiting fans as England laboured to a draw.

Southgate's first game since replacing disgraced Allardyce was a nondescript 2-0 win over Malta last weekend.

Now he must wait another month before a qualifier at home to Scotland and a friendly versus Spain, after which the English Football Association are expected to make a decision on his future.

Lewandowski scores stoppage time winner

Robert Lewandowski struck in the fifth minute of stoppage time to give Poland a dramatic 2-1 home win over 10-man Armenia in a World Cup Group E qualifier on Tuesday.

The result kept Poland on course to reach the 32-team finals in Russia, as it left them second in Group E on seven points from three games, behind surprise leaders Montenegro on goal difference.

Romania have five points, Denmark are on three after a shock 1-0 home defeat by Montenegro, Kazakhstan have two and Armenia none.

(Reuters)

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