Alaba snatches draw for Austria

Ireland’s chances of qualifying for World Cup seriously damaged as they drop two points at home

Wed, Mar 27, 2013, 11:14


What it is about the Austrians and our national team we might never know for sure but for 50 years now they have been thwarting the Republic of Ireland’s ambitions and last night they dealt what was perhaps their cruellest blow yet to the country’s hopes of making it to a major championships.

The Alpine conditions might just have helped and they may briefly have thought they were in for an even better night when they were virtually handed an early lead. In the end, they got the draw they probably deserved for the determination with which they kept up the chase for something although David Alaba’s deflected long-range goal seconds from the end of the game’s 93rd and last minute still seemed a tough way for the hosts to drop two points.

Until then Giovanni Trapattoni’s men seemed to have mixed just enough grit and determination, with the odd bit of enterprise, to get the result they required. Much of what was admired about the performance on Friday was certainly absent here but at 1-0 down the supporters would surely have settled for the Republic’s revolution to be out on hold as long as the result was the right one. After two first half goals from Jon Walters and a lot of desperate defending late on, it seemed until the very death that they were going to get their wish.

The Austrians, to be fair, provided an early warning that they would pose a threat themselves over the course of the evening just a couple of minutes in when Alaba sent a long-range free barely a foot or so wide of David Forde’s post. Had the 20-year-old scored it would have been easier to take that than the goal his team -ate, Martin Harnik, was handed nine minutes later.

Ciarán Clark may not have been done any favours by Marc Wilson but his first touch was terribly heavy and Zlatko Junuovic then dispossessed the defender as he tried to cut the ball back rather than clear the danger, after which the Austrian midfielder sprinted away then squared for Harnik who coolly poked it home.

Good passes
Even at that stage there was little of the composure that had been central to their success in Stockhom, but they were scarcely being outplayed either. In midfield James McCarthy produced a couple of good passes while down the left James McClean was a persistent thorn in the side of Austria’s right-back Gyorgy Garics.

It was up front that the most promising exchanges were taking place, however, with long subjecting his marker, Emanuel Pogatetz, to a torrid time with the Irishman appearing to think a little faster than the West Ham defender and then leave him for dead every time he set off towards goal.

Alongside him, Conor Sammon enjoyed mixed fortunes with alarm bells ringing early on when Aleksander Dragovic rather easily bumped the Derby striker from behind and then won a header. Still, he worked hard and had his moments, including a hand a fine effort by Long, a back-heeled attempt on goal that came back off the post that followed a fine build-up that started with a Forde free out and touches from both fromtmen before McClean crossed from the left.

By that stage Long had already earned the penalty that drew Ireland level, with Pogatetz jumping in as his opponents chased down the ball just short of the line and it was Walters who stepped up to take it with confidence.

The locals had been a little bit lucky for their free had come after an Austrian break that started when an Irish free in a promising position was taken so quickly that even most of the home team was unaware for a while that the ball was back in play. The second goal had it roots in an error too, with McClean making a fine interception but then shooting rather than feeding Long in the centre. Moments later, though, Glenn Whelan floated in a corner from the left for Walters to head home his second goal.

Within a minute or so of the second half starting McClean came close to making it three with a curling free.Austria, though, were far from finished and set about dominating the midfield. The hosts at times were reduced to chaotic defending, and countered this by sending on Paul Green when perhaps a better option may have been Wes Hoolahan. However, Forde made some decent saves and Heinz Linder made a stunning stop when Garics almost headed past him.

Ireland’s best spell came just either side of that save with a quick succession of corner yielding a couple of close chances but as the game went on, the home side were pushed back as Austria pressed. They looked to have gotten away with it but as the final seconds slipped by, their luck ran out with Alaba’s shot clipping Seán St Ledger and flying beyond Forde.