Podolski punishes Poland
Polish-born striker fires Germany top of Group B
A brace from Lukas Podolski handed Germany a comfortable 2-0 victory over Poland in Euro 2008 Group B.
Pre-tournament favourites Germany were never truly troubled in their opening match in Austria and Switzerland and goals either side of the break from Podolski earned a deserved victory.
Ahead of kick-off there were fears that the historic rivalry experienced by the two sides could have led to a heated encounter in Klagenfurt.
However, Germany dominated proceedings and when Polish-born Podolski opened the scoring in the 20th minute as he tapped home following unselfish play by Miroslav Klose there only looked to be one winner.
Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was largely a bystander in the first half and little changed after the interval as Poland continued to struggle to create.
And Podolski duly decided matters with 18 minutes remaining as he volleyed in from close range.
The victory continues Germany's impressive unbeaten record against the Poles, which now stands at 12 wins and four draws, and saw them replace Croatia at the top of Group B.
Germany, one of the tournament favourites despite not having won a finals match since their 1996 triumph in England, suffered a nervy start when from the first attack of the match goalkeeper Jens Lehmann spilled a cross after colliding with team-mate Per Mertesacker.
Fortunately for the former Arsenal custodian, though, Poland midfielder Jacek Krzynowek blazed the loose ball into the massed ranks of German fans behind the goal.
Joachim Low's side did not have to wait long to create their opening opportunity though, and it really should have resulted in the first goal of the game.
A Michael Ballack through-ball sent Klose away, but instead of taking the chance himself the striker opted to slip the ball inside to Mario Gomez, who with the goal gaping was unable to stretch enough to get a clean connection and his effort dribbled agonisingly wide of the post.
An entertaining start continued with Poland captain Maciej Zurawski just failing to get on the end of a low cross from the right as the German defence again looked uncomfortable under pressure.
Germany took the lead not long after though when Klose again broke the Poland offside trap, with Gomez sending the striker clear.
Once more Klose unselfishly opted to set up a team-mate, and this time his pass across the face of goal took Celtic's Artur Boruc out of play and allowed Gleiwitz-born Podolski the simplest of tap-ins.
The Germans were good value for their lead at that point, but Poland were not without their chances and Wojciech Lobodzinski saw his low drive held by the diving Lehmann, before Zurawski dragged a decent chance wide of the far post during a purple patch for Leo Beenhakker's men.
At the other end Gomez missed a similar chance for Germany following good work by Clemens Fritz down the right before Mariusz Lewandowski saw Lehmann save his long-range piledriver with what was the final effort of a decent first period.
The half-time introduction of the lively Roger Guerreiro gave Poland a spring in their step at the start of the second period, but despite giving the German back line plenty of think about, the Poles were still playing catch-up as the game entered the final 30 minutes.
Poland may have been enjoying plenty of possession, but Germany were looking threatening on the counter-attack and substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger tested Boruc with a low drive before the Polish goalkeeper produced a brilliant fingertip save to deny Ballack in the 70th minute.
The Chelsea man looked certain to score after latching onto Philipp Lahm's cut-back, but Boruc was equal to the Germany skipper's rising shot to keep Poland in touch.
Boruc's good work was undone soon after however when Germany pounced on a defensive mistake from Pawel Golanski to double their lead.
Golanski took too long in attempting to clear the ball and Schweinsteiger was able to block before feeding the ball inside for Klose.
Klose, who turns 30 on Monday, was unable to grab himself an early birthday present as he mis-hit his shot, but the ball spooned up nicely for Podolski who slammed an unstoppable volley into the roof of the net.
That left Poland with a mountain to climb to avoid defeat in their first appearance at the European Championship finals, but Beenhakker's side almost gave themselves a lifeline when Guerreiro's near-post cross was glanced goalwards by Marek Saganowski.
However, Lehmann blocked Saganowski's header and Poland were unable to capitalise on the subsequent loose ball.
Podolski had a chance to grab himself the match ball with two minutes remaining, but he fired over with his less-favoured right foot from 15 yards out, but although he did not get his hat-trick, he had already done enough to earn Germany the points.