Azerbaijan 1 Germany 4: Schurrle inspires world champions to fifth win in five

Germany survived a scare to record a 4-1 victory over Azerbaijan that keeps them top of World Cup qualifying Group C with a 100 per cent record.

Andre Schurrle, making his first start for Germany since October 2015, opened the scoring and set up Thomas Muller to make it 2-1 after Dimitrij Nazarov had threatened to spark a huge shock, before Mario Gomez struck just before half-time and Schurrle added a late fourth.

Germany, who made seven changes to the team that beat England 1-0 in Wednesday's friendly, took the lead thanks to Schurrle after 19 minutes of the match in Baku but conceded their first goal in qualifying through Nazarov - who plays for Erzgebirge Aue in the 2. Bundesliga.

Muller promptly restored the advantage before Gomez's header made it 3-1, and Joachim Low's side made certain of their fifth win in five matches on the road to Russia 2018 with Schurrle's second in the closing stages.

They remain seven points clear of Czech Republic, who thrashed San Marino, while Robert Prosinecki's Azerbaijan stay in fourth place on seven points after a second defeat of their campaign.

Azerbaijan started brightly but the world champions found their breakthrough after 19 minutes. A fine team move involving captain Sami Khedira and Julian Draxler allowed Hector to find space to the left of the area, and his first-time cross was tapped into the net by Schurrle, who just beat goalkeeper Kamran Aghayev to the ball.

With Azerbaijan's early optimism ebbing away, Germany began to monopolise possession in the home side's half - until they were stunned on the break in the 31st minute.

Afran Ismayilov picked up the ball on the right and played a cross into the path of Nazarov, who manoeuvred past Benedikt Howedes before firing low into the corner from the edge of the area.

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The Tofiq Bahramov stadium was brought to its feet but the home fans were silenced only five minutes later. Schurrle won possession back in the Azerbaijan half and slid a superb throughball into the path of Muller, who rounded Aghayev before slotting into the net in style.

Just seconds before the break, Germany had their third. Joshua Kimmich curled an expert cross towards the far post from the right, and Gomez cushioned a header back across goal and into the corner of the net.

Schurrle saw a shot deflected narrowly wide as Germany pushed for a fourth after half-time, with Joachim Low introducing Mesut Ozil from the bench on the hour mark to inject some more creativity into the attack.

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Khedira, who picked up a booking that rules him out of Germany's next qualifier against San Marino in June, tested Aghayev at the near post as the visitors kept on probing, although Ismayilov continued to cause some problems for Hector down the right flank on the break.

But Germany produced one more moment of class to relieve any lingering anxiety. Toni Kroos prodded the ball into the path of Hector, and his first-time pass towards the penalty spot was controlled and blasted high into the net by Schurrle.

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