Germany laboured to a 2-0 win over Liechtenstein in a World Cup qualifier on Thursday as Hansi Flick made a low-key debut at the helm.
Chelsea striker Timo Werner broke the deadlock just before half-time in St Gallen before Leroy Sane doubled the lead late in a frustrating second-half for Flick’s side.
It was an important win for Germany, who now sit just a point behind Group J leaders Armenia after they were held to a goalless draw by North Macedonia.
The Germans host Armenia in Stuttgart on Sunday, then play Iceland away next Wednesday with Flick demanding nine points from this month’s the three qualifiers.
This was his first match as head coach after replacing Joachim Loew, who stood down following their exit from Euro 2020 with defeat to England in the last 16.
Germany went from the highs of winning the 2014 World Cup under Loew, with Flick as his assistant coach, to the lows of crashing out of the group stages four years later in Russia and suffering a 6-0 drubbing by Spain last November.
“It’s a new beginning, we’re starting from zero,” insisted Germany team director Oliver Bierhoff in the build-up, but, just as they often recently did under Loew, they struggled to finish their chances.
Flick became increasingly frustrated on the sidelines at the Kybun Park, Liechtenstein’s adopted home in Switzerland while their own is renovated.
The expected drought never materialised such as when Germany hammered Liechtenstein 9-1, 8-2, 6-0 and 4-0 in their previous meetings since 1996.
Flick opted to start a Chelsea attack with Kai Havertz playing just behind his Blues’ team-mate Werner.
Bayern Munich’s midfielder Joshua Kimmich captained Germany for only the second time.
Minnows Liechtenstein are ranked 189th in the world, just behind Bhutan and Bangladesh.
Yet the team of mainly semi-professionals managed to keep 16th-ranked Germany out until just before the break when Jamal Musiala split the hosts defence with a superb pass which Werner tucked in the net.
In a bid to freshen the attack, Flick brought on playmakers Marco Reus and Serge Gnabry among four second-half changes, yet the Germans squandered the few chances they created.
Flick punched the air when Sane finally crashed his shot into the far corner with a tidy finish, but the new head coach has much to do if Germany are to challenge for next year’s World Cup.