HAMBURG: Thomas Mueller netted twice as Germany eased to an impressive 3-0 home win over the Czech Republic to keep them top of their World Cup qualifying group on Saturday.
It leaves Germany with a perfect six points ahead of Tuesday’s next qualifier, home to Northern Ireland, who beat San Marino 4-0 in Belfast.
Germany stay top of Group C on goal difference from surprise-package Azerbaijan on the road to Russia 2018.
“We can be very happy with the win and we had a good grip on the game,” said Germany coach Joachim Loew.
“After 60 minutes you could see the opposition had run themselves into the ground and didn’t have any more clear chances.”
After Mueller gave Germany an early lead, Toni Kroos weighed in with a crisp strike just after the break.
Mueller then hit Germany’s third with the best goal of the game midway through the second half to cap a very polished display from the world champions.
“We’re very serious about these two games (against the Czech Republic and Northern Ireland), we could have scored more goals, but we delivered a very concentrated performance,” said Mueller.
“The fans deserve some praise, the atmosphere was really good. It made it even more fun to play for Germany and, of course, I am happy to have scored twice.”
Centre-backs Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng were outstanding in shutting down the Czech attack and putting in damaging long-range passes.
With his only out-and-out striker, Mario Gomez, injured, Loew opted to play Mario Goetze as his lone striker, in front of attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil with Julian Draxler and Mueller on the wings.
The Czech Republic dealt Loew the heaviest home defeat of his 10-year tenure when they won 3-0 in Munich in October 2007 in a Euro qualifier.
But with veteran midfielder Tomas Rosicky injured and goalkeeper Petr Cech now retired, Czech shot-stopper Tomas Vaclik had a busy night.
The hosts went ahead after just 13 minutes. Goetze’s pass to Ozil was flicked on to the unmarked Mueller, who drilled his shot past FC Basel’s Vaclik.
It could easily have been 3-0 at half time as Germany dominated the first 45 minutes.
Goetze went one-on-one with Vaclik, who brought him down, but the German’s chipped shot went wide and the referee waved away shouts for a penalty.
Draxler’s effort was just the wrong side of the post, while a superb long ball from Hummels found Goetze in behind the defence, but he was incorrectly flagged for offside.
Four minutes into the second half, left-back Joshua Kimmich’s pass allowed Kroos to curl his shot around Vaclik’s despairing reach to double Germany’s tally.
But Germany saved their best goal for last.
Ozil released Jonas Hector on the flank and he played in a superb cross which Mueller expertly converted on 65 minutes.
It was nearly 4-0 on 80 minutes when replacement Benedikt Hoewedes fired just wide.