North Macedonia stun German Machines with late winner
Football – World Cup Qualifiers Europe – Group J – Germany v North Macedonia – MSV-Arena, Duisburg, Germany – March 31, 2021. North Macedonia’s Eljif Elmas celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates. [Pool via REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen]

North Macedonia scored an 85th-minute winner through Eljif Elmas to stun hosts Germany 2-1 in their World Cup Group J qualifier on Wednesday as the Balkan country celebrated their greatest international victory.

Elmas slotted in after the four-times world champions had controlled the game but struggled to convert chances against the disciplined North Macedonians, ranked 65th in the world.

It was Germany’s first home World Cup qualifying loss in 20 years in coach Joachim Loew’s last qualifying game in charge ahead of his departure following this summer’s European Championship.

“This cannot ever happen,” Germany captain Ilkay Gundogan said. “They had two chances, twice in front of our goal and twice they scored.

“It was just too easy. We dominated had our chances but scored just once. To leave a man twice unmarked in the box should not happen.”

Despite Germany’s 70% possession in the first half and Leon Goretzka’s shot onto the crossbar, it was the visitors who scored when 37-year-old Goran Pandev was left unmarked in the box to tap home in first half stoppage time.

The Germans had their opponents boxed in their own half but apart from a Serge Gnabry effort had little to show for it until Leroy Sane was brought down in the box.

Gundogan’s 63rd-minute penalty drew the hosts level but despite late pressure and a golden chance for Timo Werner 10 minutes from time, Germany could not find a winner.

They were lucky not to concede a penalty for an Emre Can handball but were still punished for not making their dominance count when Elmas found space in the box to turn in a cutback for the winner.

The goal lifted North Macedonia to six points in second place, ahead on goal difference from Germany in Group J and three behind leaders Armenia.

North Macedonia stun German Machines with late winner
Results from other matches on Wednesday night. [Photo: Courtesy]

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