Two early goals from Julian Draxler and Sami Khedira were all that they needed in the end, but they found their Irish opponents a much tougher test than the Czech Republic side they played three days earlier.
They gave the hosts a few scares and defended resolutely to limit Germany’s chances of scoring any further goals in the second half. Germany are two points clear of Azerbaijan at the top of Group C, with Northern Ireland third.
A quick rematch following Paris meeting
This was a quick opportunity for the two sides to get reacquainted, after their meeting at UEFA Euro 2016. That was a narrow 1-0 win for Germany, with Mario Gómez the only one to beat an inspired Michael McGovern that afternoon.
Germany had started their qualifying campaign with two 3-0 wins, against Norway and the Czech Republic. They resisted the chance to make any changes to their side, with the same eleven that started on Saturday. Ilkay Gündogan was amongst those making do with a place on the bench.
After their opening draw with the Czechs, Northern Ireland beat San Marino on Saturday with a late double for substitute Kyle Lafferty coming alongside Steven Davis and Jamie Ward goals.
Given the start difference in quality between San Marino and Germany, Michael O’Neill changed to a 5-4-1, with three personnel changes. Lee Hodson, Aaron Hughes and Corry Evans were brought in for Conor McLaughlin, Niall McGinn and Stuart Dallas. Lafferty remained on the bench.
Germany quick to exert dominance
There was an early scare for Germany, when a slip from Mats Hummels allowed Josh Magennis through, although Manuel Neuer came forward to clean up.
Soon after though McGovern made an excellent save from a Mario Götze header, after a cross from Thomas Müller.
They were quickly finding their groove, and eventually broke through a crowded Northern Ireland box. After Jérôme Boateng won the ball, it passed through three players to Draxler, who with his second touch fired past McGovern.
A Toni Kroos short corner minutes later led to the second. The ball into the box was headed on by Hummels towards Khedira, who beat two defenders to put it into the net for his first international goal since the last World Cup.
Northern Ireland look to fight back
It was looking ominous for Northern Ireland, but they weren’t afraid to go in search of a way back into the game. Ward sent an early warning shot, but with a deflection of Boateng it was an easy enough save for Neuer.
Germany remained on top though, with McGovern coming out to punch away a Draxler cross towards Joshua Kimmich, before Götze thought he had the third. An excellent ball from Draxler found Müller, but in an offside position. So when he played it back to Götze, his goal was disallowed.
However it was Northern Ireland who ended the first half the stronger. Magennis was working incredible hard alone up front, and he earned himself a chance, only to see it saved by Neuer.
But soon after he set up Corey Evans, who coming forward was brought down just on the edge of the box by Boateng. Oliver Norwood put the resulting free-kick just over Neuer’s bar.
Germany kept relatively quiet in second half
The second half was very much a case of attack versus defence, as Germany tried but failed to find a way through Northern Ireland’s packed defence.
Following a build-up of more impressive passing play, Khedira had a volley blocked by McGovern. A few minutes later, Boateng launched a ball into the box, but Götze’s header towards the centre was booted out by Hodson.
The chances kept coming, but Kimmich thought he might have a penalty when he went down under pressure from Shane Ferguson, although replays clearly showed there was minimal contact.
Boosted by his goal in the first half, Khedira kept trying to put himself in scoring positions, and following a short corner, he headed just over from a Kroos cross.
But ultimately Germany struggled to hit the target much, summed up by attempts like Gündogan’s wayward strike ten minutes from the end. And the fans had the final say, with the closing stages sound-tracked by the whole stadium getting involved with ‘Will Grigg’s on Fire’. He wasn’t even part of the Northern Ireland squad.