They dominated the first half after Lars Stindl gave them an early lead, but needed Julian Draxler to restore their lead from the spot after Tom Rogic equalised for the Socceroos.
Leon Goretzka scored a third just after the break, but a mistake from Bernd Leno gave Tomi Juric a consolation leading to an edgy final half-an-hour.
Under-strength Germany still favourites
This was the first game for both sides in the competition and they, in particular world champions Germany, were looking to join Chile at the top of Group B after their win against Cameroon on Sunday.
Joachim Löw has left 12 of his most experienced players at home, although the team in Russia is still full of top level experience, with Paris Saint-Germain’s Draxler, the most capped player in the squad, serving as captain for this competition.
Leno was preferred in goal ahead of Marc-André ter Stegen, with Shkodran Mustafi and Antonio Rüdiger at centre-back as Löw opted for four at the back. Timo Werner missed out to Sandro Wagner and Stindl up front.
Australia were still the underdogs though, and were without the injured duo of Brad Smith and Mile Jedinak, their captain, with Aaron Mooy and Celtic’s Rogic benefiting from the absences. Mark Milligan was named as their captain. Their most experienced player Tim Cahill was only on the bench.
Germany dominance rocked briefly by Rogic scare
Germany needed just five minutes to open their account for the tournament. Good play on the right allowed Julian Brandt to charge forward on the wing, and his cross found an unmarked Stindl, who finished in style for his first international goal with Australia’s defenders clueless to the actual danger.
It was almost all one-way traffic, with Germany accumulating chances to extend their lead without taking them. Wagner had a couple of the best chances, going wide both times, whilst Brandt recovered well from a slip to force Mathew Ryan into a save. He had an even better chance later – a well-worked short corner from Jonas Hector, via Draxler, set him up, and it was a superb strike, kept out only by the hand of Ryan.
Australia had been poor but started to get into the game more before half-time. A free-kick from Mooy was nudged wide by Trent Sainsbury with a poor header. That was a warning for Germany, and they didn’t heed it. A mistake from Draxler led to the chance to Rogic to equalise. His initial shot was headed wide but came off the back of Mustafi, giving him a second crack, scoring as Leno made a meal of stopping it.
Australia’s elation only lasted for a few minutes. Massimo Luongo brought down Goretzka as Germany passed the ball around the box, with the referee inevitably pointing to the spot. Draxler converted the penalty low to his right, as Ryan dived the wrong way, and Germany were back in front at the break.
Juric consolation makes for nervy second half
The score line began to reflect the flow of the game better soon into the second half. A lovely dinked ball from Joshua Kimmich, one of the few first-choice German players selected, found Goretzka, and the Schalke 04 man struck past Ryan to give his side a two-goal cushion.
Another error from Leno saw the Germans pegged back again though. After Goretka gave away a free-kick on the edge of the box, Mooy hit the wall with it. However, Rogic got the rebound through the crowd of bodies in the box, with Leno spilling the attempted save. Juric was there to turn it in. The referee consulted his Video Assistant Referees for a handball from Juric, but replays showed it was not clear-cut enough to disallow the goal.
Germany were not dominating the way they had in the first half. Australia were getting forward a lot more, and Leno had to make saves from two substitutes, James Troisi and Robbie Kruse. A substitute for Germany, Werner, hit the post though, after getting past Milos Degenek.
At one point Australia looked the more likely to snatch an unlikely point, but as they tired Germany looked to catch them on the counter, with Werner shooting wide after launching a one-man counter attack as the clock passed 90 minutes. They saw out the rest of stoppage time to seal the three points and to go level on points with Chile, their next opponents on Thursday.