- Associated Press - Sunday, May 29, 2016

AUGSBURG, Germany (AP) - Germany’s European Championship preparations had a setback Sunday in a 3-1 thunderstorm-interrupted defeat to Slovakia.

Goals at the end of the half from Marek Hamsik and Michal Duris gave Slovakia a 2-1 lead at the interval in the Euro 2016 warmup before the storm peppered the pitch with large hailstones and heavy rain.

Play resumed almost 40 minutes later on the water-sodden pitch, but ball control proved difficult for both sides.

The unmarked Juraj Kucka, who earlier conceded the penalty from which Mario Gomez opened the scoring, made up for it in the 52nd minute with a volley to Patrik Hrosovsky’s corner, sending the wet ball through the unfortunate Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s hands and legs.

“I’ve never experienced anything like it. It’s unique that the halftime break lasted so long. Thankfully nothing happened,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said of the conditions. “We weren’t good at the back and we were too open in midfield.”

Bayern Munich midfielder Joshua Kimmich and Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno both started for their Germany debuts, while Leverkusen midfielder Julian Brandt and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Julian Weigl came on later to make theirs. Schalke midfielder Leroy Sane also started for his second cap.

Sami Khedira, back from injury, captained Germany in place of the injured Bastian Schweinsteiger, who hasn’t played since a partial ligament tear in national team training on March 22, his second knee injury of the year.

Regular No. 1 Manuel Neuer was rested, as were Mesut Ozil, Thomas Mueller, Lukas Podolski and Toni Kroos. Mats Hummels, Marco Reus and Karim Bellarabi were all injured.

Gomez opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 13th after Kucka fouled Goetze.

Goetze, who scored Germany’s World Cup-winning goal in 2014, was making a rare start after a frustrating season at Bayern.

Germany dropped intensity as Slovakia improved. Napoli star Hamsik duly equalized with a brilliant strike to the top far corner in the 41st, three minutes before Duris stunned the home fans with a header from a corner. Leno should have done better.

There was some whistling from fans at halftime, though supporters were quickly sent running when the thunderstorm struck.

Kucka made the most of the conditions to make it 3-1, prompting a spirited fightback from Germany, frustrated by the conditions and well-organized Slovakian defense. Goetze came closest late on, just wide of the far post.

“It was good for us to play in such a situation to play in such conditions. We conceded two stupid goals,” Goetze said.

Germany plays Hungary next Saturday for its last friendly before Euro 2016, where Germany faces Ukraine in its first match on June 12. Northern Ireland and Poland are also in Group C.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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