Germany had a clanger from Georgi Bushchan to thank for their 2-1 win against Ukraine as Joachim Low’s side finally won a Nations League match.
At their seventh attempt, Germany picked up a victory in the competition, but there were nervy moments during the closing stages in Kiev.
Matthias Ginter and Leon Goretzka gave the visitors a healthy 2-0 lead, with the latter nodding in from a couple of yards after Ukraine goalkeeper Bushchan practically dropped a cross onto his head.
The visitors were under pressure late on after Ruslan Malinovskiy’s 76th-minute penalty gave Ukraine hope, but they held on.
Germany went ahead in the 20th minute as Ginter netted his second senior international goal, turning in a cross from Antonio Rudiger who danced around the right side of the Ukraine defence before delivering the ball low across the six-yard box.
Joshua Kimmich almost beat Bushchan from 25 yards, forcing the goalkeeper who conceded seven against France in midweek to tip over.
Germany looked sure to get another before half-time when Serge Gnabry’s diving header from Ginter’s clipped cross from the right arrived towards the near right corner, but Bushchan flung himself across to turn the ball wide.
Bushchan’s calamitous blunder came in the 49th minute, when he made an awful mess of Lukas Klostermann’s cross from the right flank, and Goretzka could not miss.
Julian Draxler should have scored a third goal for Germany 90 seconds later after Gnabry cut the ball into his path. The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder had time to set himself in the penalty area, but this time Bushchan made the save.
Ukraine’s threat was minimal, but they had a lifeline when Roman Yaremchuk went down under Niklas Sule’s challenge, earning a penalty.
Malinovskiy fired into the bottom-left corner, but Ukraine, backed by fervent, horn-blowing home support after the stadium was open to 30 per capacity, could not find a leveller.
What does it mean? The wait is over
Germany have been strangely slow to get to grips with the Nations League, and they had drawn both games in this season’s competition before this contest, being held by Spain and Switzerland. Perhaps now they will warm to UEFA’s latest national team tournament, but what is for certain is that gifts such as the one Goretzka benefited from will not come along in every game. Ukraine have been experiencing a goalkeeping crisis, but Bushchan does not appear to be the right man for the job.
Germany leave room for improvement
Germany had 76 per cent of first-half possession and 73 per cent overall, but it was hardly a vintage performance. They had 17 shots to Ukraine’s nine, with everyone in the starting XI except goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and left wing-back Marcel Halstenberg having an attempt. Draxler and Toni Kroos were inventive enough, each playing three key passes, but they lacked decisive finishing.
Malinovskiy gets his reward
Opta’s match statistics show that Malinovskiy was the man most likely to make something happen for Ukraine. The Atalanta star took four shots at Germany’s goal – admittedly only the penalty was on target – and played two key passes. He had 25 passes in the Germany half, nine more than any team-mate, and won five fouls. No other Ukraine player was fouled more than twice.
Germany tackle Switzerland in Cologne on Tuesday, looking for an improvement on the 1-1 draw they achieved last month in Basel. Ukraine welcome Spain to Kiev on the same evening, having been given a 4-0 hiding in September by the same opponents in Madrid.