COLOGNE: Germany's midfielder Toni Kroos' free kick fails to make it past the Swiss wall during the UEFA Nations League football match Germany v Switzerland in Cologne on October 13, 2020. - AFP

COLOGNE: Germany twice had to come from behind to earn a rollercoaster 3-3 draw against visitors Switzerland in an exciting Nations League group game packed with incident on Tuesday. The Swiss took an early lead through Mario Gavranovic and Remo Freuler added a second before goals from Timo Werner and Kai Havertz levelled the scores. Gavranovic then grabbed his second only for Serge Gnabry to earn Germany a point.

The result moves Germany within a point of League A Group Four leaders Spain, who remain on seven points after losing 1-0 away to a Ukraine side now on six points, while the Swiss, still without a win, stay bottom with two points. Germany coach Joachim Loew reverted to a four-man defense for the game in an empty stadium, after they had led in the last four games only to concede equalizers in three of them.

But it remained their weak spot on Tuesday as they struggled with quick breaks from the Swiss who found far too much space. "It was extremely intense. We started badly but showed great attitude in coming back," Loew said. "That was positive. In defense we made our share of mistakes which we have to stop. But we showed that the team is ready to fight." The Swiss had stunned Germany with Gavranovic's fifth minute header and doubled the lead in the 26th when they intercepted a pass from Toni Kroos, playing in his 100th international, and Freuler beat goalkeeper Manuel Neuer with a cool chip.

Werner hit back for the hosts two minutes later, wrongfooting keeper Yann Sommer with a clever low shot, as the Germans maintained possession and kept pushing forward. Robin Gosens' effort was tipped over the bar by Sommer late in the first half but the keeper was beaten when Havertz charged into the box and fired in the equalizer in the 55th. But Germany's backline kept leaking goals as the Swiss went back in front in the 57th. Neuer made consecutive saves from Haris Seferovic but Gavranovic drilled in on the rebound.

A sensational Gnabry back heel flick on the hour pulled the home side level once more and rescued a point for Loew's team. "We have to defend better, defend more intelligently and smarter," Havertz said. "But we kept coming back, we showed a strong mentality. We need more patience but today there were lots of good signs. We will keep working at it." The Swiss finished with 10 men following the stoppage-time dismissal of defender Fabian Schaer for a second booking.

Spain go down
Meanwhile, substitute Viktor Tsygankov's strike gave Ukraine a surprise 1-0 win over goal-shy Spain in their Nations League clash in Kiev on Tuesday. The 22-year-old Dynamo Kiev player had not long been thrown into the fray by coach Andriy Shevchenko when he latched onto Andriy Yarmolenko's superb through ball and fired past an exposed David de Gea in the 76th minute. The goal came against the run of play with Spain applying most of the pressure at the Olympic Stadium, where coronavirus restrictions were eased enough to allow a limited number of fans to attend.

It was a shock result after Spain-who had not lost since November 2018 -- won 4-0 when the sides met in Madrid just last month, and Ukraine are now only a point behind Luis Enrique's team in League A, Group 4. With two rounds of matches still to play in November, Spain top the group on seven points, a point above both Germany and Ukraine, with winless Switzerland bottom on just two points. Germany came from 2-0 and then 3-2 down to draw 3-3 with the Swiss in Cologne on Tuesday.

The Ukraine squad had been hit by a host of coronavirus cases before being trounced 7-1 by France in a friendly in Paris last week, and Andriy Shevchenko's side then lost 2-1 at home to Germany at the weekend. They were fortunate not to fall behind on several occasions against Spain, with goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan doing well to tip over a Rodrigo Moreno header early on. Bushchan, of Dynamo Kiev, also tipped over a Sergio Ramos free-kick in the first half, while Manchester City midfielder Rodri hit the post in the 65th minute.

Luis Enrique sent on Ferran Torres along with Mikel Oyarzabal, the Real Sociedad forward who scored in the 1-0 win over Switzerland at the weekend, but Spain could not find a way through. It was a disappointing return for them to the stadium where they beat Italy 4-0 in the final of Euro 2012, and Spain have managed just one goal in three outings this month. Often criticized for his performances with Manchester United, De Gea will also face scrutiny for his positioning at the goal, and Spain's home meeting with Germany next month is shaping up to be decisive in deciding who advances to the four-team finals.- Agencies