Germany stretch lead after beating Azerbaijan

BAKU - Germany stretched their lead over Russia in World Cup qualifying by comfortably beating Azerbaijan 2-0 on Wednesday. Goals from Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose took Germany four points clear of their chief Group Four rivals Russia, who have a game in hand. "We completed our mission and got the three points," said Germany coach Joachim Loew. "But we had some problems as we lacked rhythm and keeping the same pace for 90 minutes." "It is important to improve as there are still nine points up for grabs," said Loew. Azerbaijan, under former Germany coach Berti Vogts, gave the visitors an early scare when they beat the off-side trap but failed to finish properly. The Germans then took command when Schweinsteiger fired a thundering left-footed drive into the top corner. Klose, who somehow missed an open goal with a header from two metres on the stroke of half-time, made amends following the restart with an almost identical header after the ball had bounced off the bar from a Mario Gomez shot. After Schweinsteiger's spectacular finish in the 12th minute, Piotr Trochowski could have doubled the German lead when he connected with a deep cross but his header flew just wide. The speedy midfielder caused considerable confusion in the Azeri defence, floating free kicks and corners into the box for the taller Germans, including captain Michael Ballack and striker Gomez. While far from convincing, with most players only now starting their season, Germany were never really threatened by their opponents, who have yet to score in this campaign. The group winners qualify for the finals in South Africa next year, with the eight best runners-up going through to a two-legged play-off.