By Tim Dykes at the Bruchwegstadion
Host nation Germany got their UEFA European Under-21 Championship campaign off to a positive start with a victory against Switzerland in Mainz.
Any Germany fans worried when the prolific Lukas Podolski was ruled out on the eve of this Group B opener with a groin strain had their fears eased by Benjamin Auer, the FSV Mainz 05 striker who revelled on his home ground by breaking the deadlock before Thomas Hitzlsperger's clinical strike made David Degen's reply no more than a consolation.
It could all have been very different had Johan Vonlanthen converted a clear-cut chance in the opening seconds of the game. Davide Chiumiento, the Juventus FC player whose mazy runs unsettled the Germans all evening, neatly brought the ball down before releasing his PSV Eindhoven compatriot, but Tim Wiese parried the striker's angled effort.
At the other end Alan Rochat, the outstanding Swiss performer, twice denied Uli Stielike's side a goalscoring opportunity, notably with a superb 16th-minute block as Christian Tiffert jinked forward. Moments later Auer was denied by Marco Wölfli, the BSC Young Boys goalkeeper who had previously been untroubled.
Tiffert was booked for a trip on Tranquillo Barnetta but the ensuing free-kick was comfortably headed away as the Swiss began to realise an aerial approach was unlikely to reap rewards against a defenced marshalled with authority by the towering figure of Hertha BSC Berlin's Alexander Madlung.
The opening goal came midway through the half after Bastian Schweinsteiger found Andreas Görlitz on the right flank with a wonderful cross-field pass and the TSV München 1860 midfield player's hanging cross was helped past Wölfli by Auer's deft header.
The Swiss could have been level moments later but Vonlanthen squandered their best chance of the half by heading Kim Jaggy's left-wing cross narrowly over but Germany were soon back in the ascendancy, Görlitz blasting a hopeful effort over the bar before Wölfli saved at the foot of his left-hand post from Auer.
Vonlanthen put the ball in the net shortly before half-time but the offside flag had already been raised and it was the Germans who began the second period brightest. Auer had the near-capacity crowd on their feet before lifting his 48th-minute shot over the crossbar and it seemed only a matter of time before the lead was doubled.
Hitzlsperger's goal came just past the hour mark after Auer's clever knock-down from a left-wing cross found its way to the Aston Villa FC midfield player, who struck the ball sweetly through a crowd of players into the far corner with his left foot.
Philipp Degen ventured forward and skewed a shot wide as Switzerland sought a quick reply and after Tiffert hit the post from close range for the Germans, the deficit was halved when substitute David Degen smashed the ball into an empty net with 13 minutes remaining as the hosts suffered a rare lapse in concentration.