An injury-time winner from Oliver Neuville gave Germany a narrow 1-0 win over neighbours Poland in a pulsating encounter in Dortmund.
Poland had been reduced to ten men for the last 20 minutes following the sending-off of Sobolewski for a second yellow card. His dismissal gave the hosts the impetus they had previously lacked and ensured a frantic finale which culminated in Neuville‘s last gasp winner.
Jurgen Klinsmann recalled Michael Ballack to his starting line-up after the Chelsea playmaker missed the first match through injury. The former Bayern Munich player was an influential presence in the midfield, prompting most of Germany’s better moments.
The first chance of the game fell to Poland but Zurawski’s shot was hit straight at Lehmann and the keeper made a comfortable save. At the other end Ballack, showing no discomfort after his recent injury, broke down the left and set up a great chance for Klose whose left-footed effort was well saved by the outstretched arm of Boruc.
Poland were unrecognisable from the team which capitulated so lamely to Ecuador, playing with a zest and energy that was largely absent from their opening game. Pawel Janas’s side were succeeding in pinning Germany back in their own half and they managed to create a series of half-chances without ever really threatening Lehmann.
However, the best chance of the opening stages fell to Germany and the normally reliable Klose. On 20 minutes the striker met Lahm’s cross but his header was pushed just wide of the post when he looked certain to score.
Podolski, who had been relatively quiet in the opening half hour, came to life with a turn and shot that drew a smart save from Boruc.
As the half progressed Germany began to take control of the game and Schweinsteiger should have done better when presented with a great chance at the edge of the area, but the Bayern Munich midfielder blazed over the bar.
Germany should have taken the lead in first-half stoppage time when the impressive Lahm picked out Podolski bursting into the penalty area. With only Boruc to beat the Polish-born striker somehow contrived to slice his shot wide from five yards.
After the break Germany maintained their territorial advantage but they continued to lack a cutting edge in the final third of the pitch. Poland meanwhile, seemed happy for the scoreline to remain 0-0 and keeper Boruc was warned about time wasting by the referee.
The stalemate was almost broken just past the hour mark when Klose produced a fierce goal-bound drive, but the outstanding Boruc was well-positioned to parry the ball to safety.
Odonkor came on midway through the second half and the youngster introduced some much-needed pace into an otherwise pedestrian Germany attack. Klinsmann also brought on Oliver Neuville for the disappointing Podolski in an attempt to break the deadlock.
However, as the game entered the final 20 minutes Poland looked comfortable defending in numbers and attempting to hit Germany on the counter-attack.
Poland’s cause wasn’t helped by the dismissal of Sobolewski for a second yellow card after he brought down Klose. From the resulting free-kick, Klose’s header went narrowly wide as Germany cranked up the pressure.
With Germany laying siege to the Polish goal, Neuville missed a glorious chance to put the hosts ahead when he fired straight at Boruc from ten yards out. Poland, with ten men, were hanging on as Germany forced a series of corners, but the delivery from set-pieces was often poor.
The closest Germany came was in the final minute when Klose’s header hit the bar from a Lahm cross, the ball fell to Ballack and he also clipped the bar from the rebound.
Poland’s reprieve was shortlived as Odonkor made strides down the right wing and crossed for Neuville who slid the ball into the net past the unlucky Boruc.
The winner came with seconds remaining and although it was harsh on a brave Polish defence, there was no doubt that Germany deserved their win on the back of a vibrant second half performance.
The win almost guarantees the hosts a place in the knockout stages, while for Poland a second successive early elimination beckons.
Germany: Lehmann, Friedrich, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Ballack, Frings, Schneider, Podolski, Klose.
Subs used: Odonkor 64 (for Friedrich) Neuville 71 (for Podolski), Borowski 77 (for Schweinsteiger)
Bookings: Ballack 58, Odonkor 68, Metzelder 70
Poland: Boruc, Bosacki, Baszczynski, Bak, Zewlakow, Sobolewski, Krzynowek, Smolarek, Radomski, Zurawski, Jelen.
Subs used: Lewandowski 77 (for Krzynowek), Dudka 84 (for Zewlakow), Brozek 91 (for Jelen)
Bookings: Krzynowek 3, Sobolewski 28, Boruc 89.
Sent off: Sobolewski 75.
Referee: Luis Medina Cantalejo (Spain).