DORTMUND, Germany (Reuters) – Germany’s Thomas Mueller struck twice as the nervy world champions kicked off their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a 2-1 victory over Scotland on Sunday.
Mueller, who also struck the post in stoppage time when Scotland had Charlie Mulgrew sent off for a second booking, scored with a header in the 18th minute of a first half in which the hosts crafted chances galore.
Speedy Ikechi Anya stunned the hosts with a superb finish in the 66th minute but Mueller restored Germany’s fragile lead with a scruffy effort four minutes later following a corner.
The result puts Germany on three points in Group D along with Poland who thrashed newcomers Gibralter and Ireland who snatched victory in Georgia.
“I am satisfied with the three points,” coach Joachim Loew told reporters. “It was clear the Scots had nothing to lose. I knew it would be tough after the World Cup, and we were also missing a lot of players.”
“My players tried to do things up front but we made mistakes at the back, especially in the second half. We lost a bit of control of the game. It was also a matter of fitness.”
For Scotland, unbeaten in their previous six games, it was bitter to leave empty-handed after playing with plenty of endeavour, especially in the second half when they had Germany flustered at times.
“I thought we would get a point and I actually thought we would win it at one stage,” said manager Gordon Strachan.
“I feel disappointed for the people who came to watch us, and the players as well. To have put in that kind of work, going out there against really physical players, they stood up to it.”
In their first competitive game since the July 13 World Cup final in Brazil, Germany, missing more than half a dozen players including Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Ozil, got their first real chance when Mueller met a cross but headed wastefully wide in the eighth minute.
Germany showed defensive weaknesses, as they had done in their 4-2 loss to Argentina in a friendly on Wednesday, with Barry Bannan going close for the visitors.
The hosts, who had Mario Goetze deployed as a striker instead of Mario Gomez, broke the deadlock when Mueller’s arcing header from a Sebastian Rudy volley beat keeper David Marshall.
The goal settled German nerves as they tightened their grip on the game with more than 70 per cent possession in the first half to keep the Scots firmly on the back foot.
Marshall did well to parry a Marco Reus shot as Germany upped the pressure.
Reus, outstanding throughout, suffered more bad luck after his injury a day before the World Cup departure that saw him miss the tournament, when he limped off the pitch.
“It does not seem to be that bad but we still need to wait for the medical checks,” said Loew.