Germany’s Andre Schuerrle (R) celebrates with Jonas Hector after scoring a goal during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification football match between Azerbaijan and Germany in Baku on March 26, 2017. Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP
Germany leaked a first goal since July but extended their perfect record in World Cup qualifiers to five straight wins as Andre Schuerrle scored twice in Sunday’s 4-1 victory in Azerbaijan.
First-half goals by Schuerrle, Thomas Mueller and Mario Gomez put the world champions 3-1 up at the break, although Azerbaijan midfielder Dimitrij Nazarov, who plays in Germany, had netted an early equaliser to the delight of the home crowd.
It was the first goal Germany had conceded following seven successive clean sheets — a national team record — dating back to their 2-0 defeat against France in the semi-finals of Euro 2016.
This was Germany’s eighth straight win, including qualifiers and friendlies, since losing to Les Bleus in Marseille last July. “It was a hard bit of work, we lost a few too many balls and were a bit too loose in the challenge,” admitted Schuerrle.
“But we did well to shut the door by making it 3-1 at the break.” Schuerrle added a late second goal to reward the faith shown by Germany’s head coach Joachim Loew despite a series of below-par displays for Borussia Dortmund.
“It does me good to score goals, but it’s up to me to take my performances back to Germany and repeat them for Dortmund,” added Schuerrle. The Baku win means Germany stay top of Group C with five wins from five, having scored 20 goals and conceded just once.
Germany were near full strength, but with captain and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer out with a calf injury, Bayer Leverkusen’s Bernd Leno made only his fourth appearance between the posts.
Juventus’ defensive midfielder Sami Khedira took over the captain’s armband in Neuer’s absence.
The world champions went ahead with the first clear chance. Toni Kroos spotted space on the left wing for Jonas Hector to whip in a cross which Schuerrle stabbed home with 19 minutes gone.
It was Schuerrle’s first Germany goal since his hat-trick in the 7-0 thrashing of minnows Gibraltar in June 2015. However, Azerbaijan fought back and drew level on 31 minutes.
Nazarov, who plays for Bundesliga second division club Erzgebirge Aue, finished a counter-attack with a superb strike. It stayed 1-1 for only five minutes as Schuerrle restored the lead by poaching possession and snuffing out an Azerbaijan counter attack.
He placed his pass in behind the defence for Mueller to convert on 36 minutes. It was Mueller’s fifth goal in five 2018 qualifiers this season, although he has netted just two Bundesliga goals for Bayern Munich during the same period.
Gomez then made his height count as the 1.89-metre (six foot, two inches) striker outjumped Azerbaijan’s right-back Magomed Mirzabekoto, who stands 1.68m (five foot, five inches) tall, to head home Joshua Kimmich’s cross on 45 minutes.
Mesut Ozil replaced Gomez for the final 30 minutes but the tempo dropped, although Khedira went close when his shot was saved with 15 minutes left.
Schuerrle sealed the win on 81 minutes by converting another good cross from the left by Hector.