Defending champion Germany resuscitated their World Cup hopes with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Sweden in their second Group F game in Sochi on Saturday, despite going down to 10 men late in the second half.
The 2014 winners lost their opening match to Mexico on Sunday and needed a win over the Swedes to put their qualification hopes back on track.
The result gives Joachim Low’s men three points from two matches, level with the Swedes and three points behind group leader Mexico who beat South Korea 2-1 earlier in the day.
Germany coach Low dropped Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira from the side that desperately needed a victory after falling 1-0 to Mexico in the opener.
The World Cup winners were left on the bench for Marco Reus and Sebastian Rudy, while Jonas Hector came in for the injured Mats Hummels and Antonio Rudiger took the place of Marvin Plattenhardt.
Germany were on the front foot early, creating two gilt-edged within the first five minutes they were unlucky not to convert.
Julian Draxler and Reus got in behind the defence moments later but neither’s cross could find a teammate in the box.
Manuel Neuer came to the rescue on 13 minutes when a Rudiger giveaway allowed Marcus Berg to break in behind the Germany back line but he fired too close to the charging Bayern Munich man while possibly being fouled from behind by Jerome Boateng, but the play was not reviewed.
The match was delayed midway through the first half after Rudy was inadvertently kicked in the face. The midfielder stayed down as his nose gushed blood and medics attended to him.
He was replaced by Ilkay Gundogan in the 31st minute.
Sweden then gave the Germans an uphill battle just one minute later through a fine finish by Ola Toivonen, who chested down a Viktor Claesson pass and beautifully chipped Neuer near the edge of the six-yard box.
Sweden nearly worked a second on the stroke of half-time via a quick free kick from outside the box, but a diving Neuer did well to keep Berg’s header out at the far post.
Germany equalised immediately after the break through Reus, who missed the 2014 tournament with an injury — the Borussia Dortmund forward latching onto a ball from substitute Mario Gomez to touch home from close range with his left knee after darting across a Swedish defender in the 48th minute.
Reus went close moments later with a deflected shot from the left channel and Thomas Muller nearly headed home from a set piece in the 51st minute.
Albin Ekdal was given a yellow for a hard challenge on Muller in the 53rd as Germany piled on the pressure and worked a number of half-chances — Timo Werner looking especially dangerous down the left.
Emil Forsberg finally tested Neuer after 75 minutes with a volley from distance after a Sweden set piece.
Werner redirected a Müller low cross over the bar after being all alone in the box and Germany went down to 10 men seconds later when Boateng received his second yellow for an unnecessary challenge from behind on Berg.
Neuer needed a desperate punch to deny Sweden on the doorstep in the 83rd minute.
Gomez’s free header in the 88th minute was sensationally kept out by Sweden keeper Robin Olsen whose reflex save just pushed the ball over the crossbar.
With a desperate Germany racing against time, second-half substitute Julian Brandt fired off the post with a thundering drive from the top of the box in the 92nd minute, leaving a diving Olsen well-beaten.
However, Germany would find their winner soon after.
Werner was brought down to the left of the area in the final minute of stoppage-time and the foul proved costly for the bunkered-in Swedes.
From the ensuing free kick, Germany midfielder Toni Kroos tabled a short ball to Reus before dramatically curling past a helpless Olsen and into the far netting for a thrilling victory for the Germans.
With their chances of advancement greatly improved, Germany will wrap up group play against South Korea on Wednesday in Kazan, while Sweden will take on Mexico that same day in Yekaterinburg.
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