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World Cup qualifying

Two-goal Klose fires Germany to victory

Germany continued their steady progress towards the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa with a 4-0 home victory over Azerbaijan on Wednesday night. In the eighth of ten qualifying fixtures, the Germans upped their game in the second half to see off the minnows, and now lead Group 4 on 22 points, one ahead of chief rivals Russia, 3-1 winners away to Wales. The top two go head-to-head in Moscow on 10 October.

A sparse 35,369 crowd in Hanover saw captain Michael Ballack hand his side the lead with a 14th-minute penalty. Miroslav Klose, who replaced Mario Gomez at half-time, struck a brace on 55 and 66 minutes to effectively settle the issue, himself moving on to 47 goals for his country. Lukas Podolski rounded off the scoring 20 minutes from time as the Germans ultimately overpowered courageous opponents, who punched above their weight until the dismissal of captain Samir Abasov on 50 minutes for a second bookable offence.

Klose third in all-time list

“We need to sit down and talk about the 25 minutes leading up to half-time. We can’t be playing like that in front of a home crowd,” complained Philipp Lahm. The Germans inexplicably shifted down through the gears after taking the lead and allowed the visitors a foothold in the match. “That was a very, very poor performance,” Lahm continued.

“We weren’t prepared to take enough risks,” said two-goal marksman Klose, who now moves level with Rudi Völler and Jürgen Klinsmann in third place in the all-time Germany goalscoring chart. However, the FCB striker feels his team will raise their game for the crunch meeting with the Russians. “We have nothing to lose when we go there. We’re good enough to come through it.” Alongside Lahm and Gomez, Bastian Schweinsteiger also started the match, before giving way to former Munich man Piotr Trochowski on 67 minutes.