Germany’s Podolski produces storybook finish with lone goal in final match of international career

AFP-JIJI

Lukas Podolski signed off his Germany career in style on Wednesday smashing home the winning goal with his trusty left boot to seal a 1-0 friendly victory over England.

It was only fitting that the Galatasaray forward, who joins J. League squad Vissel Kobe next season, should claim his 49th goal in his 130th — and final — international appearance.

“It was like in a movie, dear god gave me a strong left foot and I used it tonight,” Podolski said.

“It was a great game, a great result and a great way to say goodbye.”

Podolski captained the world champion to its first win over old rival England on home soil since 1987.

The 31-year-old received a standing ovation in Dortmund after a pre-match presentation to mark his 13-year international career.

After his winning goal lit up an otherwise dull friendly on 69 minutes, Podolski came off to more thunderous applause with six minutes to go.

“That gave me goose bumps to get a reception like that,” added Podolski.

Before kickoff England manager Gareth Southgate paid tribute to the victims of Wednesday’s London terror attack and said there was no question of canceling the match.

Southgate, who took the decision to drop Manchester United star Wayne Rooney from his squad, fielded a new-look side which had the better of the Germans in the first half.

“I take a lot of encouragement from that despite the result,” Southgate said.

“It’s never nice to lose, but I have to be pleased with the way the players played and how the tactical system worked.

“I thought we were the better side up until their winning goal, that was a good learning experience for our young players who made their debuts.

“All that was missing was the finish to get the winning goal I felt we deserved.”

West Bromwich Albion’s Jake Livermore came in for injured Jordan Henderson, while Leicester’s Jamie Vardy took Harry Kane’s place up front.

Gary Cahill captained the team as part of a back three while James Ward-Prowse, Nathan Redmond and Michael Keane all made their debuts for the visitors.

Germany coach Joachim Loew also experimented by starting just three 2014 World Cup winners in Toni Kroos, Mats Hummels and Podolski.

A fourth, Sami Khedira, dropped out hours before kick-off with a swollen ankle.

Striker Timo Werner, 21, earned his Germany debut after scoring 14 goals for RB Leipzig this season.

Keane struck over in the early stages as England made a bright start and Adam Lallana’s powerful shot hit the post with 30 minutes gone.

Podolski fired over Germany’s best first-half chance after being set up by Manchester City’s Leroy Sane.

With halftime approaching Dele Alli forced Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen into a reflex save as it stayed goalless at the break.

Germany took control at the start of the second half with winger Julian Brandt firing wide.

Podolski tested England goalkeeper Joe Hart, while Eric Dier forced ter Stegen, in for injured Manuel Neuer, into a diving save on 52 minutes.

But Podolski steered the friendly Germany’s way with the superb winner on 69 minutes.

A Kroos pass found replacement Andre Schuerrle, who laid the ball off for Podolski, whose bullet shot off his left foot gave Hart no chance from 25 meters out.

The goal breathed life into the hosts and only a good save denied Sane after a storming run into the area and the City midfielder had another late chance.

Both teams have important World Cup qualifiers on Sunday.

The teams are top of their respective groups for the matches on the road to Russia 2018 when England hosts Lithuania and Germany is away to Azerbaijan.