Eugen Polanski conjured up a goal worthy of winning any game as Germany opened the UEFA European Under-21 Championship with a 1-0 victory against Serbia and Montenegro in Barcelos.
The VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach midfield player had been the scourge of the Serbo-Montenegrins at U19 level, scoring on his two outings against these opponents including one in last summer's European Championship, and proved so again as he collected a loose ball 35 metres from goal, charged forward and beat the hitherto untroubled Vladimir Stojković with a rasping drive from range in the 61st minute. The strike settled an even match, with Boško Janković having had the most presentable opening of the first half well saved by Michael Rensing in the Germany goal.
While Stojković was declared fit to captain his country, the Germany skipper Sascha Riether was not having been struck down by a stomach complaint. Dieter Eilts's side nevertheless began confidently, the diminutive Polanski in particular working busily without ever finding the pass to unlock a Serbia and Montenegro defence in which Milan Stepanov and Milan Biševac were towering. Lukas Sinkiewicz was equally impressive at the other end, not least when denying Mirko Vučinić as the US Lecce forward threatened to latch on to a delicious curled ball from the outside of Simon Vukčević's left boot.
That was one of the highlights of an opening half-hour which brought plenty of graft but little craft, although an increase in the tempo from the team in blue brought the match to life. In the 35th minute, Vukčević darted into space out on the left to create a three-on-two situation, looked up and delivered a centre which Rensing was grateful to smother as Janković and Vučinić charged in. Moments later, the impressive FC Bayern München goalkeeper deflected Janković's goalbound effort after Vučinić's wonderful dummy had left Marvin Matip and his fellow defenders flat-footed.
By the 48th minute, Rensing had been forced to show his full repertoire as he dived full stretch to tip away a free-kick from Vučinić which threatened to fizz into the far corner. That was to prove the closest the 2004 finalists would come as Polanski delivered a blow from which they could not recover. Stefan Kiessling could have doubled the advantage four minutes later only to scuff a shot from a decent position, while substitute Christian Eigler forced Stojković into a reflex save in the 79th minute just moments after coming on.
Germany, who remain unbeaten in two years, next face France on Thursday, when Serbia and Montenegro return to this stadium for what promises to be another testing engagement against the hosts Portugal.
Carlsberg Man of the Match: Lukas Sinkiewicz (Germany)