Goals from stand-in centre back Shkodran Mustafi and Bastian Schweinsteiger ensured that world champions Germany survived several scares to beat Ukraine 2-0 in their opening Euro 2016 Group C match at Lille on Sunday.
Mustafi, who started in the absence of regular centre back Mats Hummels, scored his first ever goal for the country (a header) after 19 minutes to give Germany the lead.
The Germans made it 2-0 in the 90th minute when substitute Schweinsteiger made instant impact after sweeping home from close range.
Germany, bidding for a fourth European Championship triumph and a first since 1996, dominated possession, but also banked on three top saves from keeper Manuel Neuer and a superb goal-line clearance by Jerome Boateng to come out on top.
Ukraine, playing in their second European championship, harried and hustled their opponents and their water tight defence offered the Germans very few chances.
Roman Zozulya was unable to offer much threat as a line striker as Ukraine pushed on in search of an equaliser.
In a frantic first half, Ukraine’s Yevhen Konoplyanka forced Neuer to make a superb save in the fourth minute before the Germans took control, with Toni Kroos orchestrating most of their attacks.
It was from Kross’ free kick that Mustafi leapt behind Serhiy Sydorchuk to power in a header.
Ten minutes later Sami Khedira had the chance to double Germany’s lead with his shot going straight at the keeper.
More attacks followed as Ukraine drove their full backs higher up the pitch, and also forced Neuer to punch over a strong header from Yevhen Khacheridi.
Boateng was then forced into a dramatic goal-line clearance, having first lost the ball before hacking it clear while back-pedalling into the net.
Zozulya also had an effort disallowed for offside as Germany hung on until halftime.
Come the second half and Ukraine posed less of a threat as they relied on hopeful long balls while keeper Andriy Pyatov was forced to save efforts from Khedira, Thomas Mueller and Mesut Ozil.
Germany suffered one final fright when Mustafi headed back over Neuer’s head, leaving the goalkeeper to scramble back towards his own net, as the latter appeared to body check striker Yevhen Seleznyov.
Then, in the final seconds Germany countered and hit Ukraine on the counter as Schweinsteiger slammed in a cross from Ozil.
The win extended Germany’s unbeaten run against Ukraine to six matches and also maintained their record of never having lost their opening match in a European Championship tournament.
Germany will now play joint group leaders Poland at the Stade de France on Thursday, while Ukraine takes on Northern Ireland in Lyon.
Several hours before the match, German and Ukrainian supporters scuffled briefly in the centre of Lille, with police quickly bringing the situation under control.