Leroy Fer nodded in a late winner for the Netherlands as they edged a thrilling contest against Germany to take all three points in Petah Tikva.
The FC Twente midfielder rose above Germany’s defence to head beyond Bernd Leno with 89 minutes on the clock and the scores at 2-2. Exciting midfielder Adam Maher had opened the scoring for the Dutch, and Georginio Wijnaldum extended the lead towards the end of the first half.
Germany were outplayed in the first half, and showed great character in the second to level the scores. Sebastian Rudy converted from the penalty spot after Lewis Holtby was tripped by Jeron Zoet, and Holtby had restored parity with a fine solo effort.
Manager Rainer Adrion had set up Germany quite curiously, with full-backs Tony Jantschke and Oliver Sorg deployed on the ‘wrong’ sides and Pierre-Michel Lasogga preferred to Kevin Volland up front. Their opposition looked stronger on the teamsheet, with a 4-5-1 led by central trio of Kevin Strootman, Marco van Ginkel and Adam Maher.
And two of the three were involved in the first chance of the game, as Strootman’s burst from midfield saw him link up with striker Luuk de Jong to set up Maher, whose left-footed shot forced a fine save from Leno.
Germany remained on the back foot thanks to Dutch pressing, and a good break ended comically when Patrick Herrmann tangled with the referee and fell to the floor. Holland had done everything but score after 20 minutes, and although Leno had denied Maher in the opening stages, he was at fault for the opener.
Maher took possession on Holland’s left, and reached the edge of the box before taking aim. With Leno already diving the wrong way he could only watch the ball nestle in the corner to give Holland a deserved lead.
And with Germany unable to turn short bouts of possession into meaningful attacks, Holland struck again. Wijnaldum set off at pace on the right wing, and jinked past two defenders before firing off a left-foot drive which Leno could only palm into his net.
Adrion had seen enough from the ineffective Peniel Mlapa, and withdraw him for Kevin Volland after 40 minutes. Not until the second half did the substitute make his impact though, sending Holtby through on goal before Zoet rushed from his line and upended the German skipper. Rudy did the honours from the spot to consolidate a noticeable improvement, before another penalty shout saw Lasogga booked for simulation.
His strike partner Volland took the limelight next, and should have scored from Herrmann’s delivery to the back post, but opted to try and find Holtby rather than shoot himself.
The game had become a much more even contest and Germany almost drew level in spectacular fashion. Volland had offered far more than Mlapa since the change and almost rewarded his manager with an equaliser when he turned smartly and sent a spinning drive against the woodwork from 20 yards.
If the game was beginning to become all about Volland, both goalkeepers ensured no one was able to forget about their presence. Leno was first as he raced off his line to save well from substitute Florian Jozefzoon and Zoet followed suit; smothering the ball from Herrmann’s feet after another incisive ball by the influential Holtby.
Tottenham midfielder Holtby was taking the mantle of responsibility, and showed why it was he who donned the captain’s armband to restore parity. Starting out from the left flank, he left three Dutch defenders trailing in his wake before smashing a low drive into the corner on his right foot.
It looked to be a deserved point for both sides, but when van Ginkel was presented with a corner after his own shot was blocked, the 20 year-old whipped his set-piece to the back post where Fer leaped above a sea of German defenders to bury a header and regain the Dutch advantage.
The result means Germany’s encounter with Spain looks like a must-win, as the defending champions secured a narrow 1-0 victory over Russia in Jerusalem. Thiago Alcantara’s free-kick was headed home by under-21 debutant Alvaro Morata for the only goal of the game to break Russian hearts after a solid performance throughout.