A crowd of over 10,000 saw Germany come from behind to beat Sweden 3-1 in the opening game of the 2001 UEFA Women's Championship. Two goals from Claudia Müller and a late strike by Maren Meinert ensured victory for the hosts in this Group A clash at the Steigerwaldstadion, Erfurt.
Germany, the holders and hosts, started brightly as Birgit Prinz and Müller put the Swedish defence under pressure from the first whistle and Germany had the chance to take the lead as early as the third minute. Bettina Wiegmann played a superb ball behind the Swedish back line, but Müller hurried her shot and goalkeeper Caroline Jönsson dived smartly to her right to gather.
Fine double save
After a shaky opening few minutes Sweden began to edge their way into the game. Hanna Ljungberg went close as she slid in to connect with Elin Flyborg's cross, but German captain Doris Fitschen made a last-ditch tackle to deny what looked a certain goal. Then just a minute later German keeper Silke Rottenberg made a fine double save, first from Linda Fagerström's powerful drive and then from Flyborg's follow-up.
Sweden take lead
German midfielder Meinert became the first player to be booked when her trip on Swedish defender Jane Törnqvist earned the Boston Breakers player a yellow card and Sweden's increasing pressure finally told in the 14th minute when Ljungberg opened the scoring. The Umea IK forward was first to react in a crowded penalty area and her low shot bounced awkwardly over the arms of Rottenberg.
The goal stung Germany into action and the hosts created several good chances. First Jönsson stood helpless as Wiegmann shot just wide from six metres; then Törnqvist made a superb challenge to deny Müller from four metres before defender Karolina Westberg again denied Müller with the goal at her mercy.
Germany went close again in the 35th minute when Renate Lingor's 18-metre free-kick just cleared the angle of crossbar and post. But with half-time approaching Germany finally converted one of their many chances to bring the scores level. On 42 minutes Meinert swung in a vicious free-kick from the left and Müller arrived late at the far post to ease home a simple header from two metres.
The start of the second half saw Sweden on the attack but their desire to push forward left gaps in their defence that Germany exploited to the full in the 65th minute when Müller grabbed her second of the game. Törnqvist came across to cut out Pia Wunderlich's long ball, but Müller stuck out a leg to divert the ball home.
The hosts extended their lead with 12 minutes remaining when Meinert was on hand to score from eight metres after neat interplay between Prinz and substitute Sandra Smisek. Sweden showed their attacking class throughout a hard-fought encounter, but Germany's pace and tenacity saw them claim a deserved victory and got their defence of the trophy off to the best possible start.
Player of the match: Maren Meinert (Germany)
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