sport

Muller inspires Germany rout

Thomas Muller bagged a hat-trick as Germany sailed to a comfortable 4-0 win over 10-man Portugal in Group G of the World Cup.

Joachim Low's side opened the scoring in Salvador after just 12 minutes, following referee Milorad Mazic's decision to award Germany a penalty.

Portugal's Joao Pereira brought down Mario Gotze in the area after the Bayern Munich playmaker had expertly swivelled past his marker, with Muller converting the resulting spot-kick with aplomb.

Soon after the half-hour mark, Toni Kroos delivered a sumptuous corner into the Portuguese area and an onrushing Mats Hummels powered an unstoppable header beyond a hapless Rui Patricio to make the scoreline 2-0.

The game reached boiling point five minutes later after Pepe appeared to flick Muller in the face with a flailing arm, with the latter immediately falling to the floor. The Real Madrid defender leant in with his head while the Germany forward was down, and the referee immediately brandished a red card at Pepe - his first sending-off for Portugal.

Just before the break, Germany took full advantage of the extra man after Muller pounced on a poor defensive clearance from Bruno Alves, stroking the ball past Patricio to add a deserved third goal.

It was a comfortable second half for Die Mannschaft, and Muller secured his hat-trick after tapping in from five yards out in the 78th minute, completing a comfortable win over Paulo Bento's side.

It meant a hugely disappointing result for World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, who had declared himself fully fit from his knee injury.

Strangely, Portugal had dominated the opening exchanges and Ronaldo inspired the first real chance of note as he played in Hugo Almeida, but the moustachioed Portugal striker's effort was weak and easy for Manuel Neuer to claim.

Neuer then came to the rescue again as Ronaldo threatened once more. Miguel Veloso caught Philipp Lahm in possession and with the Portuguese outnumbering the German defence, he sent Ronaldo racing in on goal but he hammered his shot straight at Neuer from a tight angle.

After that, however - and partly aided by some shocking defending - Germany assumed control.

Sami Khedira had already missed a golden opportunity when keeper Patricio cleared the ball straight to his feet, and though he was 35 yards out, the Real Madrid midfielder should have done better with the empty goal beckoning.

Moments later, Pereira pulled back Gotze as he twisted in the box and the Portugal defender was lucky to be only booked by Serbian referee Mazic.

Muller looked confident as he stepped up to take the penalty, and he buried it emphatically to put the Germans ahead with 12 minutes gone.

Gotze was denied by a last-ditch block after excellent work by Mesut Ozil but from the 32nd-minute corner, Hummels crashed home a header to make it 2-0 despite the attentions of two defenders.

Eder headed over from a corner as Portugal tried desperately to get back into the game but then came Pepe's moment of self-destruction in the 37th minute.

Muller went down claiming he had been caught in the face by Pepe's arm, but the Real Madrid defender's reaction was to push his head into the German forward's.

It may have been the lightest of head-butts but it was pure stupidity from Pepe, who has previous for this kind of thing, and he was given his marching orders.

Muller effectively ended any contest just before the break, firing in off Patricio's body as Portugal's defe nce gave way again.

They had made heavy weather of getting the fourth, Gotze in particular being wasteful, but finally Andre Schurrle crossed low and Patricio merely palmed the ball to Muller to poke home from close range with 12 minutes left.

Ronaldo's influence was strictly limited; only a blistering free-kick right at the final whistle which was brilliantly saved by Neuer hinted at what might have been.

Germany move on to a clash with Ghana in Fortaleza on Saturday, while Portugal meet the USA in Manaus on Sunday.