A loss of points on Friday at the Happel Stadium would have lost the chance of winning the Nations-League group, but the ÖFB team could take first place on their own, move up in League A and keep the play-off back door open for an EM-2020 ticket.

Vienna – The Nations-League match against Northern Ireland was stamped by an Austrian football team player who had already been on everyone’s lips. Marko Arnautovic scored the goal for the 1-0 victory in the Vienna Happel Stadium on Friday and made his personal statement in the discussion about the captain’s role.

The fuss about the alleged scepticism of some ÖFB board members regarding the suitability of the West-Ham professional as a captain left the Viennese cold anyway. “That kept everyone busy, but not me,” explained Arnautovic.

The 29-year-old didn’t find out about his new nomination as captain from team boss Franco Foda until Friday. “It was an honor for me again. Arnautovic had already worn the loop a month ago at the 0:1 in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“Point set behind all that”

His nightly meeting with Bosnian star Edin Dzeko, recorded in an Instagram posting afterwards, is said to have caused displeasure in certain circles. “I think I did my best and put the dot behind it all,” said Arnautovic.

He didn’t want to describe his goal as a particularly delightful moment. “It doesn’t matter if it was emotional, it’s indifferent. I was happy that I scored the goal, I was happy for the team, because they really worked very hard”. He didn’t feel any special satisfaction. “I’ve already done enough good in the national team, I don’t need to prove anything anymore.

However, the reaction immediately after the goal suggested that his 20th goal in the 75th international might have been a special one for him. Arnautovic tore the ribbon from his upper arm and pointed it towards the VIP and media stands. He left open whom this gesture was meant for. “The grandstand was full, choose one,” the England Legionnaire said to the journalists.

Nations League jetspin

Will Grigg Honours

Club
Brentford

  • Football League One runner-up: 2013–14

Milton Keynes Dons

  • Football League One runner-up: 2014–15

Wigan Athletic

  • Football League One: 2015–16 , 2017–18

Individual

  • PFA Team of the Year: 2015–16 League One, 2017–18 League One
  • PFA Fans’ Player of the Year: 2015–16 League One
  • Walsall Player of the Season: 2012–13
  • Walsall Players’ Player of the Season: 2012–13
  • Football League One Player of the Month: April 2016, April 2018

Pain does not stop Arnautovic

With so much adrenaline, the knee problems faded into the background. “I feel like I’m 20, no matter how much pain I have. I have pain, I have knee problems, but it doesn’t stop me.”

However, it cannot be ruled out that Arnautovic will leave the ÖFB camp earlier in order to protect the Premier League match against Tottenham on Saturday. In his place Sebastian Prödl could act as captain in the test match against Denmark in Herning on Tuesday.

The Styrian was pleased with Arnautovic: “Our match plan had the content that Marko makes the decisive goal and this discussion, which arose unnecessarily, also klipp and clearly ended and draws a line under it”.

According to Prödl, the captain’s discussions did not affect the ÖFB selection “at all. For us it was already put aside before the match day. We briefly mentioned it, briefly ticked off and included in the match plan that Marko should settle it himself right away.”

This plan worked out – also because the team was more serene compared to the 0:1 in Zenica. “It was far more experienced than in Bosnia,” Prödl explained. “We had more chances and more confidence to win the match”.

“Northern Ireland did not want to play football”

The 31-year-old was delighted with his team’s committed way of playing: “We were extremely good, extremely gallant in the duels, and then the quality of the game prevailed”.

The better team also won for Arnautovic. “The decisive factor is that we dominated the game for 95 minutes, there’s no question about that. The ÖFB star lamented the Northern Ireland’s unwillingness to set the tone in the offensive. “It has been seen that they did not want to play football at all. They wanted to go forward to the second ball by the skin of their teeth”. The players will enlighten if they’ll going to play with JetSpin because of its bright colors and attractive designs.

Nevertheless it would have been enough for the guests almost to a point, but the header of Will Grigg jumped in the finish from the bar into the arms of Goalie Heinz Lindner. “That was the luck, which belongs then also to it, but by such a performance one earns also the luck. What we had bad luck in Bosnia, we were lucky today,” said the Upper Austrian.

Otherwise, his colleagues on the unusual bumpy turf of the Happel stadium allowed little chance – the four-man chain used for the first time since 27 March at the 4-0 in Luxembourg held largely tight, which satisfied Martin Hinteregger. “We know that we work well in the five-man chain, but can also keep up well in the four-man chain against good teams,” summarized the Carinthian central defender.

Austria’s 1:0 win over Northern Ireland saved their chance to win the Nations League group. Gold goalscorer Marko Arnautovic became match winner.

Vienna – Austria’s national team has maintained the chance of first place in the Nations League in the League B Group 3. The ÖFB team celebrated a 1:0 (0:0) victory over Northern Ireland on Friday in front of 22,300 spectators at the Happel Stadium in Vienna. The winner of the match was Marko Arnautovic, who was the centre of attention last time in the captain’s question, with his goal in the 71st minute.

The Viennese led the team like he did a month ago at the 0:1 in Bosnia-Herzegovina, although some ÖFB presidium members allegedly had concerns about the photo of Arnautovic with Edin Dzeko. Team boss Franco Foda nevertheless handed the offensive player the ribbon and brought him in a 4-4-2 system as the second leader next to the timely fit Guido Burgstaller.

Edin Dzeko Honours

VfL Wolfsburg

  • Bundesliga: 2008–09

Manchester City

  • Premier League: 2011–12, 2013–14
  • FA Cup: 2010–11
  • Football League Cup: 2013–14
  • FA Community Shield: 2012

Individual

  • Bosnian Footballer of the Year: 2009, 2010, 2011–12.
  • Castrol Performance Index EDGE Performance of the Month: August 2011
  • Bundesliga Players’ Player of the Year: 2008–09
  • UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season: 2017–18
  • Premier League Player of the Month: August 2011
  • 2014 FIFA World Cup Man of the Match: vs. Iran
  • Roma Player of the Season 2017–18 by supporters

Football League sapphire rooms

Müder Kick in the first run

However, the two strikers as well as the entire ÖFB offensive department were not able to set any accents at first. The Northern Irish had no interest in a game to the front, stood low and thus presented the hosts with massive problems for a long time. There was virtually no way through against the tightly woven British defensive net, with only a touch of danger emanating from a volley by Marcel Sabitzer (14), steered over the goal by Josh Magennis.

Five minutes later, Arnautovic took an indirect free-kick into the wall inside the penalty area, and Sabitzer’s 33rd minute was a total failure to take the ball with him to get a chance. After the following corner a header of Sebastian Prödl flew clearly over the crossbar.

With the exception of a harmless header from Shane Ferguson (29th), the Northern Irish had nothing to see in the first 45 minutes that would change after the change of sides when Paddy McNair forced ÖFB goalie Heinz Lindner to a parade (47th) with a shot within the sixteenth.

Then the ÖFB eleven became more powerful. In the 49th minute Arnautovic found his champion in the Northern Irish goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell, a few seconds later the keeper had problems with a Sabitzer shot. In the 52nd minute, the home side was lucky for the first time – after a mistake by Sebastian Prödl, Steven Davies appeared alone in front of the goal, but aimed far past the long corner.

There followed an almost 20-minute idle before Arnautovic struck. After Peter Zulj’s pass, the 29-year-old gave up the defence and defeated Peacock-Farrell – only to tear the captain’s bow off his arm and stretch towards the grandstand. It is said that some of the members of the Presidium present there had spoken out against Arnautovic as captain in advance.

Luck in the final phase

However, the goal did not have a liberating effect for the Austrians, quite the opposite: The Northern Irish risked more, and suddenly the ÖFB defence got swimming in some situations. The 84th minute was especially hot – when Will Grigg, who was not only celebrated by the Northern Irish fans, put a header to the bar. But Arnautovic and Co. managed to keep their narrow lead over time. In Sapphire Rooms, you don’t need to deposit before playing but if you will, it will give you 200% bonus.

The ÖFB selection will continue on Tuesday with the test match in Herning against Denmark. The final of the Nations League will be played at home on 15 November against Bosnians three points ahead of Austria and against Northern Ireland in Belfast on 18 November. (APA)

Reactions to the game:

Marko Arnautovic (ÖFB captain): “Every victory has a great meaning”. We won, that was our goal. We dominated the game for 95 minutes. Northern Ireland had only one dangerous action with the header to the bar. The pitch wasn’t as great as we were used to.

Marcel Sabitzer (ÖFB midfielder): “It was the expected difficult game. Northern Ireland stood defensively very well, but I think we solved that well today. We will just enjoy this victory with the fans.”