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World Cup qualifiers: Germany 1-0 England

England’s new boss Gareth Southgate suffers first England loss

England lost 1-0 to Germany in Gareth Southgate’s first match as full-time Three Lions’ manager. Germany’s Lucas Podolski scored the only goal of the match past England keeper Joe Hart in the second half at 69”, an amazing 25-yard left-footed winner in his farewell Germany game, while England’s Adam Lallana hit a post and Dele Alli saw a shot blocked at point-blank range by German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the first half. John Stones prevented Andre Schurrle from making it 2-0 in Dortmund.

The fixture was Southgate's first since being appointed on a permanent basis in November, following a four-game spell as caretaker which brought England two wins and two draws. Former Arsenal attacker Lukas Podolski captained Germany winning his 130th and final cap. Mesut Ozil, Julian Draxler, Mario Gomez and Manuel Neuer are all injured. Germany 31-year-old Galatasaray forward Podolski quit international football after Euro 2016 with 48 goals from 129 caps but returns for a farewell game. Podolski, who won the 2014 World Cup with Germany, will join Japanese side Vissel Kobe after the Turkish season ends in May.

"It's not easy to replace Podolski in the team. He is unique. He is one of the greatest players that Germany has produced," said boss Joachim Low. Keane, 24, started alongside England’s interim captain Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling, with John Stones set to return for Sunday's home World Cup qualifier with Lithuania when Cahill is suspended. England were without regular captain Wayne Rooney against the 2014 world champions, while Harry Kane and Daniel Sturridge missed out through injury. That left Vardy, Jermain Defoe and Marcus Rashford as the only strikers in Southgate's squad. Vardy is set to be supported by attacking midfielders Adam Lallana and Dele Alli against Germany.

Going into the clash against the World Cup holders, Southgate was undefeated in four games as interim England manager following Sam Allardyce's abrupt sacking after only one match. Former striker for titan England Premier League club Arsenal, Podolski was given a hero's ovation before and after the game. Although they lost to the German champions, England’s performance satisfied manager Southgate since for most of the game the Three Lions were the more creative, threatening and powerful side. Southgate will probably believe that his three-man defensive system worked effectively.

Burnley's Michael Keane made his debut, almost scoring in the opening minutes. and while the attacking system occasionally left Jamie Vardy isolated it did allow Alli and Lallana to flourish and advance into dangerous positions. England’s Jamie Vardy, Deli Alli, and Eric Lallana looked effective in possession demonstrated to Southgate the confidence the team needs to continue to win. Southgate has some positive attributes to take forward into Sunday's World Cup qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley. Dele Alli earned the award of man-of-the-match performance when England beat Germany in a friendly in Berlin almost a year ago. In this clash Alli shot straight at Marc-Andre ter Stegen in another impressive display at Signal Iduna Park. Alli who was England’s biggest attacking threat had some sublime touches and showed off his great talent, natural creative instincts, making chances and also acting as a goal threat. Alli was replaced by Jesse Lingard with 20 minutes left.

Thirty-one year old hugely popular striker Lukas Podolski was given a standing ovation when he came off in the second half and bade farewell to the International football stage ending his career after 130 caps, 49 goals and a World Cup win in 2014. Podolski was given a presentation and delivered a speech after which Germany fans unveiled a celebratory mosaic. The match-winner exited the stage a few minutes before the end, accompanied by a standing ovation and dramatic music on a night dedicated to him.

England manager Gareth Southgate was proud of his England side’s performance. "We have to reflect on a very good performance - a new system that I felt worked well and allowed us to control possession of game but also create chances,” said Southgate. "They've scored a fairytale goal, but I've got to be proud of what the players have done. I thought we were the better side up until their winning goal. That was a good learning experience for our young players who made their debuts. All that was missing was the finish to get the winning goal I felt we deserved."

Germany’s fairytale goal scorer Lukas Podolski commented after the match. "It was like in a movie, dear God gave me a strong left foot and I used it tonight,” said Podolski. "It was a great game, a great result and a great way to say goodbye. That gave me goose bumps to get a reception like that."

Germany manager Joachim Low commented on England’s intensity after the game. "It was noticeable that England were playing more intensely, much more vigorously in the tackle especially in the first half,” said Low. "It took us a while to get used to this and slowly but surely I think our players got used to our rhythm. I think it was a very good game in the end. It was good to play against opponents that really gave us a run for our money."

Southgate said he decided England would play 3-4-3 "about six weeks ago" the first time a three-man defense has been used by England since a defeat to Croatia in 2006. "We have to reflect on a very good performance," said Southgate. "In these matches it's important that you learn something from the game, and it's important that the level of performance is high. It was a good way to impose ourselves on them, to have attacking positions which could cause them problems and that's how it panned out."

Southgate said his side is capable of playing "a number of systems. We were a threat on the counter-attack, but we could also pass through them as well. We have exciting wide players if we want to play with wingers, and it's very much horses for courses. We can see the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition."

Twenty-four-year-old Burnley defender Michael Keane was one of three debutants to feature against Germany. "He took his club form on to the international stage, passed the ball well and showed super composure," said Southgate about Keane. "He should be very pleased."

Keane responded that he felt comfortable in a back three. "It was a brilliant experience for me to play such a big team on my debut,” said Keane. "I'm playing with a lot of experience around me, always talking to me and getting me in the right positions. We're talking about being adaptable. So we need to be able to change our formation, maybe even mid-game to give ourselves the best chance of winning the game. It is something the manager is looking at. I think eventually we will go back to four, but it's good to have the three in the locker as well."

Twenty-eight-year-old Adam Lallana says his focus is on Sunday's World Cup qualifier against Lithuania. "I thought 3-4-3 worked really well, we can adapt and have a different option to go to in the future," said Lallana. "Ultimately, Sunday is the most important game and we will have a good game-plan to attack that game. There is a lot for me to improve on, I enjoyed the system. It allowed individuals to express themselves in areas of the pitch where they felt comfortable."

One element of England's night in Dortmund with which Southgate may not have been so impressed, however, was some of the chanting from a section of the travelling support. Some of England’s traveling fan group indulged in negative chanting. England fans booed the German national anthem, while songs referencing the First and Second World Wars were also heard from the England section in the stadium. "Obviously our travelling support in terms of number and the way they back the team is brilliant," said Southgate "We would encourage them to do that in the right way at all times."

Both countries resume their World Cup 2018 qualifying campaigns on Sunday, when England host Lithuania and Germany are away to Azerbaijan. Great England tickets are for sale now securely online from 1st4FootballTickets.com!

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