China 0-1 Germany: Behringer beauty the difference in drab affair

A splendid strike sent the Germans through to the semi-finals at Rio 2016.

China 0-1 Germany: Behringer beauty the difference in drab affair
Melanie Behringer (right) scored her fourth goal of the tournament to send Germany through. (Photo: FIFA)
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China: Zhao, Liu, Gao, Wu, Li (c), Tan, Yang (Shanshan 46'), Wang Shuang, Pang (Ma 79'), Zhang, Gu.
Germany: Schult, Bartusiak (c), Maier, Krahn, Behringer, Popp (Islacker 90'), Marozsan (Goeßling 88'), Mittag, Kemme, Däbritz, Leupold (Huth 69').
SCORE: 0-1, Behringer 76'.
REFEREE: Kateryna Monzul (UKR). Booked: Shanshan 46', Shanshan 57' (sent off), Huth 87'.

Germany survived a stern test from China in their Rio 2016 quarter-final on Friday night, edging through with a narrow 1-0 win.

Bruno Bini's side defended brilliantly throughout and their performance was worthy of taking the game to at least extra time - albeit not as worthy as Melanie Behringer's strike was of winning the tie.

The midfielder's fourth goal of the tournament was the pick of the lot, as she smashed the ball into the top corner from range late in the second half.

China did have the chance to take it beyond the 90 minutes in the closing stages, with Wang Shaung winning a penalty in the 84th minute. However, it looked to be a soft one, and parity was perhaps restored when she got up to hit the spot-kick against the post.

The win was to be Germany's, who will play either Canada or France for a place in the gold medal match.

Frustrating, and dull, start

As expected, it was Germany who dominated this from start to finish, with Dzsenifer Marozsan having the game's first chance with a snapshot volley that fizzed just wide.

However, China were well disciplined and resolute at the back, not allowing their opponents any space to work in. The only space was behind the Chinese back line, but the Germans' attempted through balls were either too long, or the player trying to reach them was beaten to the ball by either a defender or goalkeeper Zhao Lina.

The first half continued to be a dull affair, with Saskia Bartusiak clearing the crossbar after a good delivery into box in one of few chances. Behringer's on target, but comfortably saved, effort from long range was another - to use the term loosely - highlight, while Sara Däbritz looped a shot over shortly afterwards.

Nonetheless, having spent the entire first 45 minutes camped in China's half, Germany went in at the break with nothing to show for it - other than the rather useless fact that their opponents had ventured past the halfway line perhaps once.

Twelve minutes that changed the game

The German onslaught continued after the break, with Bartusiak again benefiting from a good delivery - this time from a corner - but seeing her prodded attempt at goal cleared off the line by Tan Ruyin.

China did prove to everyone that they weren't just out to frustrate Germany and hold on for extra time and penalties, bringing on Wang Shanshan at the break, but they would soon be forced to opt for the opposite approach.

Within 12 minutes of coming on, the substitute was off, having swiftly received two yellow cards. With China have shown signs of a more attacking approach than the first half, their forwards holding play up well so the team could push further up the pitch, this was a big blow.

Extra time and penalties was suddenly the game plan - unless a glorious opportunity could present itself on the counter.

Behringer's beauty breaks the deadlock

If China hadn't already been under enough pressure, they were now, Alexandra Popp almost opening up the scoring but for her header at the back post to miss the target.

Behringer brought a good save out of Zhao as the half went on, the 'keeper tipping her fierce drive over the bar, while Leonie Maier's low drilled effort was collected by China's number one moments later.

However, Germany continued to be limited to these shots from distance, with their opponents continuing to work hard to stay in the game against all odds.

Still, this is not always a bad thing if you have the quality of a team like Germany. Behringer, already with three goals to her name in the competition, proved this with less than 15 minutes to play when she latched onto a loose ball and sent it flying into the top corner with her first touch.

The deadlock was broken, along with Chinese hearts.

Behringer and Maier celebrate after the former broke the deadlock. (Photo: FIFA)
Behringer and Maier celebrate after the former breaks the deadlock. (Photo: FIFA)

Late, glorious chance to level is spurned

It could have been so different though. With just over five minutes remaining, Wang Shuang burst forward and won a penalty out of absolutely nothing, brought down in the box by Maier.

It seemed to be a soft one, and a harsh call against Germany's superb full-back, so perhaps justice was done when Shuang dusted herself down and struck the spot-kick against the inside of the post.

Germany scrambled it clear and spent the remaining minutes pushing for a second, but it did not come nor did it need to, as Behringer's beauty proved to be enough on the day to send them to the semi-finals.