The Germany U21 side made it three wins out of three in their EURO qualifying campaign. Antonio Di Salvo’s side defeated Estonia 4-1 in Paderborn to maintain their perfect record ahead of their top-of-the-table clash against Poland on Tuesday (18:00 CET).
The only thing missing in the first half was composure in front of goal, but Hoffenheim’s Maximilian Beier finally broke the deadlock in the 39th minute. Moukoko doubled Germany’s lead in the 53rd minute with his 12th goal for the U23s, before Danil Kuraksin got one back for Estonia (64’). Things started to look shaky for the U21s, but substitute Rocco Reitz sealed the victory with two quick goals in the closing stages of the match (88’, 90+4’).
“I’m really, really happy. Scoring a brace in my first game makes the victory even sweeter,” said goalscorer Rocco Reitz, though he stressed that the performance wasn’t perfect: “I think that we were all overdoing things a bit and that we should be looking to shoot earlier.” Head coach Di Salvo also had mixed feelings about the game: “We started well and gave the opposition the run-around. I’m annoyed about the goal we conceded. We keep making life difficult for ourselves. We also need to score more goals. That being said, we can take more positives than negatives from the game.”
Di Salvo made five changes to the side that ran out as 3-2 winners over Bulgaria in October. Germany had the lion’s share of possession in the opening stages of the game and looked to let the ball do the talking in front of a crowd of 5,493 spectators. Estonia, on the other hand, were content to sit back and try to hit Germany on the counter. Di Salvo’s side hit the woodwork twice in the first 15 minutes. Merlin Röhl’s shot from about 14 yards out crashed against the bar (9’) before Moukoko was denied by the post three minutes later (12’).
Germany weren’t deterred and continued to crete a multitude of chances. Di Salvo’s men caused havoc down the wings as Estonia kept things tight in the middle of the pitch. Brajan Gruda did well to play the ball back to Moukoko in the box, but Kaur Kivila got down quickly and tipped the Dortmund striker’s effort away from the bottom corner (23’). A great run from Ansgar Knauff came to nothing five minutes later (28’). It was a question of when, not if, Germany would take the lead, but the side kept squandering good opportunities. Kivila continued to impress and produced an amazing save to deny Moukoko from a free-kick (31’). The Estonia shot-stopper was also equal to captain Eric Martel’s close-range effort from the resulting corner (32’).
A goal seemed increasingly unlikely as the first half drew to a close, but Germany would have one more good opportunity involving the woodwork. Beier let fly from range and his shot hit the inside of the post before trickling into the back of the net to give Germany a well-deserved lead (39’). Germany kept their foot on the gas and launched another promising-looking attack before half-time. Martel came close to doubling the German advantage, but Kivila used his feet to divert his deflected effort away from goal (41’).
Bernd Neuendorf, President of the German Football Association (DFB), expressed that he was “very happy” with the U21 side’s dominance in a half-time interview with ProSieben MAXX. Germany picked up where they left off at the start of the second half. Knauff latched onto a beautiful ball from Martón Dárdai and played it to Moukoko, but the striker was put under pressure and couldn’t quite get the ball over the line (52’). He made no mistake a minute later, however, as he smashed it into the top-left corner to double Germany’s lead (53’).
Germany continued to look more likely to score than their opponents, as Martel was bested by Kivila on two more occasions (59’, 63’). The Balkans then managed to get a goal back out of nothing. Estonia punished some sloppy German build-up play and Kuraksin was played through on goal. The winger stayed cool and scored with Estonia’s first real chance of the game (64’).
It remained Estonia’s only real chance until the closing stages, while Germany sought to restore their two-goal advantage. Once again, it was Moukoko who had the chance, but his shot was blocked. Both teams were lagging as the clock ticked down and the German fans’ nerves were more frayed with each Estonian chance. Noah Atubolu saved another shot from goalscorer Kuraksin in the 83rd minute. There was a collective sigh of relief as substitute Rocco Reitz made it 3-1 in the 88th minute, before the Gladbach midfielder sealed the win in the fourth minute of added time with another debut goal.