germanyLEIPZIG: Three-times European champions Germany needed a 79th minute goal from substitute Max Kruse to edge past Georgia 2-1 on Sunday and book their spot at the Euro 2016 finals after another wasteful performance in their final Group D qualifier. World Cup winners Germany, who needed only a draw, squandered over a dozen clear chances in the first half alone before Thomas Mueller’s 50th minute penalty finally put them ahead. Georgia, already out of the running to qualify, levelled three minutes later with captain Jaba Kankava’s superb 20-metre volley.

Kruse came to the rescue three minutes after coming on by slotting home from a Mesut Ozil pass to make sure the world champions, who had to put celebrations on hold after Thursday’s shock 1-0 loss in Ireland, finished top on 22 points. “We have never had such a difficult qualification in the last 10 to 12 years,” Germany coach Joachim Loew told reporters. “Usually we cruised through but this time we kept dropping points. “We sang the same song as in Ireland. Three, four huge chances early on and then the mistakes start creeping in. First of all, we are satisfied with the qualification but not satisfied with our last two games. That is not our standard. We have work ahead of us.” The hosts, eager to bounce back from the Ireland defeat and finish their campaign on a high, made a bright start with Mueller’s powerful drive forcing Nukri Revishvili into a good save in the third minute.

The keeper topped that with a superb onehanded save to deny Marco Reus, who squandered another golden chance when he fired over from three metres out with the hosts piling on the pressure and the game mostly in the Georgian half. Manuel Neuer’s reflex save to keep out Tornike Okriashvili’s shot in the 28th denied the visitors in their only attack from the opening 45 minutes. The Germans, without the injured Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Goetze, went ahead through Mueller’s penalty, his ninth goal in the qualifiers, but the joy was short-lived due to 29- year-old Kankava’s spectacular equaliser. Buoyed by the goal, Georgia became more daring and twice more tested Neuer as the home fans grew impatient with the whistles and jeers becoming louder. However, the Germans regained control and substitute Kruse, who had come on for Andre Schuerrle, settled their nerves with a fine low drive in the 79th. “The coach told me to step on the gas,” Kruse said. “Georgia did it very well and it was not easy for us. We don’t want to make it too big a deal but the coach has also said we need to be more efficient.” —Reuters