Goetze leads Germany to 3-1 win over Poland and top spot

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Mario Goetze scored twice to help Germany beat Poland 3-1 Friday in their European Championship qualifier and replace the visitors at the top of Group D.

”We knew it was an important game. We really wanted top spot,” Goetze said.

The victory also saw the Germans avenge their first ever defeat to Poland last October.

Thomas Mueller opened the scoring in the 12th minute, assisted by Cologne defender Jonas Hector, who also set up Goetze seven minutes later.

Poland captain Robert Lewandowski pulled one back with a thumping header to Kamil Grosicki’s brilliant cross, but Goetze sealed the win on the rebound in the 82nd after Lukasz Fabianski saved Mueller’s initial effort.

Germany moved two points clear of previously unbeaten Poland – 16 to 14.

Ireland took advantage of Scotland’s 1-0 loss in Georgia by beating Gibraltar 4-0 in Portugal to go third in the group, two points behind Poland.

Three rounds of games remain. The top two qualify automatically for Euro 2016 in France. The best third-placed team also qualifies, and the other eight teams can qualify through a playoff.

Liverpool’s Emre Can started at right back for his Germany debut in his home town, but it was another young defender, Hector, who played a vital role in the opening goals.

The 25-year-old Hector had a one-two with Karim Bellarabi and then cut the ball back for Mueller to score.

Hector pushed ahead again in the 19th and found Goetze, who burst forward, cut inside a defender and unleashed a fierce shot inside the left post.

Despite seeing little of the ball, Poland struck back through Lewandowski. Disorder in Germany’s midfield saw the ball swept out to the left wing for Grosicki, who controlled it with the outside of his boot and then crossed perfectly for Lewandowski to score in the 37th.

Lewandowski almost equalized before the break, only to be denied by a reflex save by Manuel Neuer – whose poor kick out led to the chance. Lewandowski’s header from the resulting corner was cleared off the line by Goetze.

Goetze struck the post in the 57th following the introduction of Ilkay Gundogan, and the World Cup hero finally settled the game when he set up Mueller and followed up for the rebound.

”We’re relieved to have won,” Mueller said. ”All-in-all we’re happy to have won against the strongest opponents in the group.”

Valeri Kazaishvili’s 38th-minute strike was enough for Georgia to claim its second group win and deal a blow to Scotland’s hopes of qualifying.

Against Gibraltar, Ireland’s Cyrus Christie opened the scoring with a fine individual effort in the 26th, Robbie Keane made it 2-0 four minutes after the break and the Los Angeles Galaxy forward converted a penalty two minutes after that. Substitute Shane Long wrapped it up in the 79th.