Germany moved to the top of Group 5 after defeating ten-man Scotland 2-1 in Dortmund and now just need a draw at home to Iceland to secure their place in UEFA EURO 2004™.
The Germans could have won by a greater margin but for a fine performance from Scotland goalkeeper Robert Douglas and some profligate finishing from the new-look Germany strikeforce of Kevin Kuranyi and Fredi Bobic.
Bobic poked home
After an even opening to the match, it was recalled striker Bobic who settled the hosts' early nerves with a 25th-minute opening goal. Douglas could only parry Arne Friedrich's shot into the path of Kuranyi, who cut the ball back for Bobic to poke home from close range. Germany dominated the rest of the first period and Douglas did well to keep out other efforts from Kuranyi and Bobic.
Scotland's influential captain, Paul Lambert, failed to emerge for the second half and his absence told as Germany doubled their lead within five minutes of the restart when Stephen Pressley was penalised for holding back Bobic in the area. Michael Ballack drove the penalty powerfully down the centre of the goal to put the home side in complete command.
The Germans streamed forward in search of a third goal but were pegged back when Steven Thompson’s cross caught their defence unawares and Neil McCann volleyed in to give the Scots hope. However, just as the visitors looked to be getting on top, Lambert's replacement Maurice Ross was sent off after 66 minutes for a second bookable offence, both late tackles in quick succession on Tobias Rau.
The numerical advantage swung the initiative back into Germany's favour and Carsten Ramelow, Rau, Sebastian Kehl, Marko Rehmer and Bobic all squandered scoring opportunities late on. As the clock ticked down, Germany became more nervous but Scotland failed to create any chances for lone forward Thompson and Germany held on for three priceless points.
Record still intact
The result maintains Germany's proud record of having never lost a game at the Westfalenstadion. Scotland, meanwhile, need to beat Lithuania in their final qualifier on 11 October and hope Germany do not lose to Iceland the same night to secure second place in the group and seal a play-off berth.
Germany coach Rudi Völler was delighted that the result left his side in pole position to qualify as Group 5 leaders. "It was a great game for the fans and was full of passion. We seemed to be home and dry but gave Scotland a lifeline after a stupid mistake and then looked a bit nervous but in the end we deserved the win."