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
- Bundesliga: 2008–09
- Premier League: 2011–12, 2013–14
- FA Cup: 2010–11
- Football League Cup: 2013–14
- FA Community Shield: 2012
- 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
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.“