Gareth Southgate’s first game in permanent charge of England ended in a narrow defeat on a night Germany paid tribute to outgoing goalscorer Lukas Podolski.
The former Arsenal forward, captain of the side for his 130th and final international appearance, struck the game’s only goal – a spectacular 25-yard effort on 69 minutes that proved harsh on England who had carried the greater threat for much of the contest.
The Three Lions, who had triumphed on their last three visits to Germany, were dominant in the opening 45 minutes with Dele Alli and Adam Lallana, playing close behind central striker Jamie Vardy, proving consistently dangerous.
- An International Match
- Wednesday 22 March 2017
- Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund
It was Michael Keane though, making his senior debut, who had England’s first effort at goal. The Burnley defender met Ryan Bertrand’s low corner 10 yards from goal, but his effort flew over the crossbar.
A corner from the opposite side, taken by Lallana, saw Eric Dier test the handling of Marc-Andre ter Stegen, though there was no power on the versatile Tottenham man’s header from six yards and the German stopper caught comfortably.
The visitors were certainly on top and Lallana was inches away from scoring on a fourth successive England appearance with half an hour played. The Liverpool midfielder intercepted Joshua Kimmich’s loose pass on the halfway line, burst down the left flank and into the penalty area, but his low shot across goal came back off the foot of the post.
Germany were struggling for fluidity so Podolski, often acting as cheerleader to the appreciative crowd in Dortmund, tried to force matters when he collected Leroy Sane’s square pass and struck from 20 yards, but failed to trouble Joe Hart.
Vardy then found Alli in space as the interval approached, but Ter Stegen was quick off his line to cut down the angle and block the in-form Spurs forward’s strike.
Three minutes into the second half Germany came close to opening the scoring. Hart raced from this line to punch away a corner to the edge of the box where Julian Brandt was lurking and hit a first-time shot with the outside of his left foot just wide.
At the other end Dier stumbled his way through the Germany defence and saw a fierce low drive from a tight angle blocked by Ter Stegen.
Out of nothing the home side took the lead and fittingly it was Podolski on target for the 49th time in German colours. The 31-year-old gathered the ball from substitute Andre Schurrle 25 yards from goal and blasted beyond Hart’s grasp into the top-right corner.
Hart made a fine stop from Sane moments later, getting down quickly and stretching out his left hand to block a low effort across goal after the Manchester City forward had got away from defender Keane.
In a game England certainly deserved a positive result from to take into Sunday's 2018 World Cup qualifier with Lithuania, the night belonged to Podolski.
Germany: 22 Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 18 Joshua Kimmich, 16 Antonio Rudiger, 5 Mats Hummels, 3 Jonas Hector, 19 Leroy Sane, 8 Toni Kroos, 15 Julian Weigl, 20 Julian Brandt, 24 Timo Werner, 10 Lukas Podolski (capt)
Substitutes: 9 Andre Schurrle for Brandt 59, 14 Emre Can for Weigl 66, 13 Thomas Muller for Werner 77, 21 Sebastian Rudy for Podolski 84
Substitutes not used: 1 Kevin Trapp, 12 Bernd Leno, 2 Shkodran Mustafi, 4 Benedikt Howedes, 17 Niklas Sule
Goals: Podolski 69
England: 1 Joe Hart, 4 Michael Keane, 5 Gary Cahill, 6 Chris Smalling, 2 Kyle Walker, 7 Jake Livermore, 8 Eric Dier, 3 Ryan Bertrand, 10 Dele Alli, 11 Adam Lallana, 9 Jamie Vardy
Substitutes: 20 Nathan Redmond for Lallana 66, 21 Marcus Rashford for Vardy 70, 19 Jesse Lingard for Alli 71, 17 James Ward-Prowse for Livermore 83, 14 Luke Shaw for Bertrand 83, 15 John Stones for Smalling 84
Substitutes not used: 13 Fraser Forster, 23 Tom Heaton, 12 Nathaniel Clyne, 16 Ross Barkley, 18 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 22 Jermain Defoe, 24 Raheem Sterling
Referee: Damir Skomina