England promised much but Gareth Southgate’s first match as permanent manager ended in defeat as Lukas Podolski marked his final Germany appearance with a stunning winner.
Handed the reins after an encouraging four-match interim stint, former defender Southgate deployed a bold, attack-minded side built upon a three-man backline and got an impressive response in Dortmund.
England looked comfortable in possession and a far larger threat than the World Cup winners, only to be caught cold as Podolski’s 130th and final Germany appearance ended with a fairytale strike that secured a 1-0 win.
It was a sickener for Southgate but perhaps the display was more important than the result.
His experimental three-man defence worked well and the attackers’ intensity caused no end of problems, with Adam Lallana hitting the post as England looked to turn first-half dominance into an opening goal.
Germany lacked such force in their play as the focus on Podolski’s final appearance seemed to take the edge off their play, only for the former Arsenal man to wind back the years by unleashing a stunning 25-yard goal.
He had faded into the background somewhat after his pre-match starring role but he had one last treat up his sleeve.
Fed by a slick interchange between Toni Kroos and Andre Schurrle, he took aim and produced an effort that soared past Joe Hart and into the top corner.
The roar was loud and emotional in the arena, Podolski’s reaction genuine and joyous. It all felt strangely inevitable that the star of the show would take one last turn in the spotlight.
Leroy Sane almost put the home team 2-0 up while England were still digesting their disappointment, but Hart managed to throw out an arm and gather his shot. After Podolski exited for the final time, unusually to some stirring classical music as the game continued, the final stages were given over to multiple substitutions.
Afterwards stand-in England captain Gary Cahill admitted the failure to punish Germany had cost England a better result.
“If you looking at chances we had the better chances, simple as that,” Chelsea defender Cahill said. “We will look back and reflect that if we take our chances we would have won that game. It’s a learning curve.”
Cahill added that the London terror attack had been on the team’s mind. He said: “Obviously that’s terrible but we were focused on the job.”