Holders Germany casually swept aside the Russian challenge in the Steigerwaldstadion to book their place in the semi-finals of the UEFA European Women's Championship. Four second-half goals capped a 5-0 victory that was richly deserved by the host nation and warmly received by a 6,249 Erfurt crowd.
Maren Meinert (right) and Sandra Smisek lead the German celebrations (©EPA)
Smisek drafted in
Head coach Christina Theune-Meyer duly made the change anticipated in the German team, bringing in Sandra Smisek to play on the right side of midfield as a way of warding off the Russian threat in that area. Pia Wunderlich stood down from the eleven that saw the host country off to a winning start against Sweden on Saturday.
Smisek was quickly involved and her nimble skills, allied to an obvious determination to impress her coach, made her a problem for Russia. The underdogs were clearly going to have to spend a great deal of the afternoon turning back towards their goal as the impressive Germans carried the game to them at every opportunity, with Birgit Prinz a focal point for their incisive raids.
Maren Meinert caught the eye with a spectacular attempt to convert an overhead kick following some determined foraging from Smisek. The danger was averted at the expense of a corner but very quickly Prinz was firing inches over the bar.
The best of the early chances came in the 14th minute when skilful play by Bettina Wiegmann put Claudia Müller in with only the goalkeeper to beat. This time the two-goal heroine from the opening day was denied as Svetlana Petko dived to smother the ball.
Müller had the ball in the net on the half-hour but the offside flag was raised. Two minutes later and Wiegmann proved wasteful, but it was she who broke the deadlock with a header in the 43rd minute following Renate Lingor's left-wing corner.
Russia had been unable to mount any pressure on the German goal and keeper Silke Rottenberg was a virtual spectator. She had to watch carefully one attempt from Elena Fomina though, which was not far off the mark.
Five minutes after the interval and Germany surged further ahead with an impressive piece of skill from the ever-dangerous Prinz. While the home crowd bayed for a penalty as a team-mate went tumbling in the box, Prinz gathered possession and craftily bent a shot past Petko and into the far corner.
The scoreline began to resemble a rout from the 69th minute when Prinz squared for Meinert to score for the second time in successive games. Smisek was on hand for the fourth four minutes later after Petko could not hold a fierce drive from substitute Pia Wunderlich.
A minute from time the ball was in the net again, and although Smisek was credited with the goal the final touch may have come off a Russian defender.
Player of the match: Sandra Smisek (Germany)
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