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Euro 2016 qualifying

Müller rescues Germany, Lewandowski shines

Germany opened their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with three hard-earned points in a 2-1 Group D victory over stubborn Scotland in Dortmund on Sunday night. Man of the Match Thomas Müller scored both his country’s goals, but in the parallel fixture Robert Lewandowski netted four times in Poland’s 7-0 demolition of Gibraltar. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg also starred with a goal as Denmark came from behind to beat Armenia 2-1.

Bayern supplied four players to Joachim Löw’s starting line-up: Manuel Neuer, fit-again Jérôme Boateng, Müller on the right of the forward line and Mario Götze as a false nine. Hoffenheim man Sebastian Rudy was a surprise starter at right-back.

The 60,209 at Signal-Iduna-Park saw a high-tempo first half in which the Germans dominated possession but initially struggled for clear-cut openings until Müller netted with the back of his head on 18 minutes. The Scots, who last qualified for a major tournament back in 1998, were cheered on by a noisy 10,000-strong travelling contingent and sporadically threatened down the flanks, although Neuer cleared up a couple of dangerous situations with characteristic ease. Boateng marshalled the home defence effectively while at the other end Marco Reus (26) and André Schürrle (42) failed to convert promising openings.

Lewandowski gala for Poland

Germany temporarily lost their way after the break and Gordon Strachan’s aggressive Scots seized the initiative. Steven Naismith hit the outside of a post after 48 minutes before lightning-quick attacker Ikechi Anya struck a deserved 66th-minute leveller. That prompted the home team into a response. and Müller scored what proved the winning goal from close range after 70 minutes.

“We missed a couple of chances to extend our lead and we were much less composed in the second half,” Müller said afterwards, “as we expected it was hard-fought and tight. I can more than live with the result.” Team-mate Neuer felt the win was “very important. We’ve done what we had to,” he remarked.

The early Group D leaders are Poland after Robert Lewandowski and Co thrashed minnows Gibraltar 7-0 in the Portuguese town of Faro. The Bayern hitman motored into form against the dwarf statelet with its population of around 30,000, firing no fewer than four goals in the second half. Lukasz Szukala and Kamil Grosicki with a brace completed the rout.

Victory and maiden goal for Hojbjerg

Pep Guardiola will also have been pleased with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s cracking early-season form. The 19-year-old talent was the best man on the park as Denmark came from behind to beat Group I opponents Armenia 2-1 in Copenhagen. Dortmund’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan opened for the visitors five minutes after the restart, but Hojbjerg equalised on 65 minutes with a fine long-range effort. Thomas Kahlenberg completed the Danish turnaround ten minutes from time. Hojbjerg earned his start for the senior national team with a convincing display in a friendly against Turkey last Wednesday.