Ballack hits winner as Germany edge Serbia

June 1st, 2008 - 1:13 pm ICT by admin  

Gelsenkirchen, (Germany) , June 1 (dpa) Substitute Oliver Neuville and captain Michael Ballack gave Germany a 2-1 victory over Serbia Saturday in their last match before the European Championships. Neuville came off the bench in the 70th minute to score from close range four minutes later and cancelled out a first-half goal from Bosko Jankovic.

Ballack clinched the win nine minutes later with a shot from the edge of the area following a free-kick.

Serbia, who failed to qualify for Euro 2008, proved an awkward opponent for Germany here, eight days before Joachim Loew’s side kick-off their Euro 2008 campaign against Poland.

The home crowd were silenced in the 19th minute when an exchange of passes in midfield allowed Sasa Ilic to split the back four with a pass to Bosko Jankovic who raced clear to slide the ball between the legs of Jens Lehmann in goal.

It was the first chance of the game for Serbia, with Ilic’s pass exposing exactly the area of defence which had been a concern in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Belarus.

Loew made four changes from the team which drew 2-2 with Belarus, bringing in Marcell Jansen at left-back, Clemens Fritz on the right of midfield and Kevin Kuranyi and Mario Gomez in attack.

Thomas Hitzlsperger, David Odonkor, Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski made way.

Christoph Metzelder, who had played only nine games for Real Madrid this season because of a foot injury, was given another chance to prove his fitness.

Germany began strongly and Serbia central defender Nemanja Vidic had to clear off the line from a Ballack header in the 14th minute.

Gomez was unfortunate not to equalize 10 minutes before the break when he failed to connect properly in front of goal from a Jansen cross.

Germany also had a strong penalty appeal turned down after Torsten Frings appeared to be tripped in the box by Ilic.

Podolski came on at half-time for Philipp Lahm, moving to the left of midfield as Germany pressed for an equalizer, but it was Serbia who came closest when Jankovic crashed the ball against the bar from close range in the 54th minute.

Arne Friedrich replaced Per Mertesacker in central defence at half-time, and further substitutions followed, with Simon Rolfes coming on for Torsten Frings, Neuville replacing Kuranyi in the 70th minute, and Bastian Schweinsteiger later making way for Odonkor.

It was Neuville who finally broke the deadlock when he turned in a Jansen cross from close range.

After Jansen was fouled on the edge of the area by Branislav Ivanovic, who earned a yellow card, the free-kick was touched to Rolfes who teed up Ballack to strike a right-foot shot into the corner of the net.

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