Football: Ziege hits three for Germany

Germany 4 Northern Ireland 0
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THESE ARE tricky times for Lawrie McMenemy and his Northern Ireland team. After Turkey's Arif Erdem put three past them in just four minutes at Windsor Park on Saturday, it took Middlesbrough's Christian Ziege just a little longer as he struck a first-half hat-trick in 29 minutes here last night.

McMenemy must be glad the Irish Football Association decided to offer him a two-year contract before these matches. Two defeats in five days is not exactly the most glowing of references, but then the IFA was looking at the bigger picture in deciding to table a new contract for their manager, and he has, undoubtedly, broadened the squad during his time in charge, while also tightening up discipline.

However, any hope of gaining some respectability from a disappointing qualifying campaign were crushed after just two minutes, when Oliver Bierhoff put the home side in front. Mehmet Scholl fired in a 25-yard free-kick against the post but the ball rebounded to Ziege, who crossed for the Milan striker to score from close range.

Northern Ireland almost equalised within three minutes when Birmingham's Jon McCarthy stabbed Peter Kennedy's inviting cross just wide. But, by the 16th minute, the Germans had assumed complete control as Oliver Neuville broke down the right and pulled the ball back from the goal-line for Ziege, who scored the simplest of tap-ins.

From then on it was just a question of how many the Germans would score - and the third came just after the half-hour. Ziege played a neat one- two with Bierhoff before volleying home left-footed into the bottom corner from just inside the penalty area.

To their credit the Irish kept trying to push forward and Mark Williams slipped as he tried to reach Iain Dowie's near-post flick from Kennedy's inswinging corner. But the respite was temporary as Ziege completed his hat-trick when, two minutes into first-half stoppage time, he latched on to a cross from Jens Jeremies.

GERMANY: Lehmann (Borussia Dortmund); Babbel (Bayern Munich), Ziege (Middlesbrough), Linke (Bayern Munich), Nowotny (Bayer Leverkusen), Jeremies (Bayern Munich), Scholl (Bayern Munich), Neuville (Bayer Leverkusen), Bierhoff (Milan), Matthaus (Bayern Munich), Bode (Werder Bremen). Substitutes: Strunz (Bayern Munich) for Babbel, 30; Worns (Borussia Dortmund) for Nowotny, 36; Schneider (Bayer Leverkusen) for Neuville, 67.

NORTHERN IRELAND: Taylor (Fuham); Nolan (Sheffield Wednesday), Horlock (Manchester City), Lomas (West Ham), Williams (Watford), Morrow (Queen's Park Rangers), McCarthy (Birmingham City), Lennon (Leicester), Dowie (Queen's Park Rangers), M Hughes (Wimbledon), Kennedy (Watford). Substitutes: Gillespie (Blackburn) for Lennon, h-t, Quinn (West Bromwich) for Dowie, h-t.

Referee: G Bikas (Greece).