Austria make statement of intent with impressive win over Sweden
Goals from David Alaba and Marc Janko set them on their way
Austrian players celebrate after beating Sweden at the Ernst Happel stadium. Photograph: Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters
Austria 2 Sweden 1 : The sense of expectation was obvious in Vienna before last night’s game, and Austria sent out a major statement to their Group C rivals with an impressive win over Sweden.
The home team needed some luck early on but David Alaba’s penalty put them ahead after 26 minutes and they looked rampant when Marc Janko followed up with an excellent header soon after.
Johan Elmander’s goal with eight minutes remaining set up a tense finish but Marcel Koller’s side ended the match strongly for a deserved victory.
Austria next travel to Germany in September – the same night Ireland host Sweden – and if they take anything from that game they will surely be favourites to stay in second place.
Giovanni Trapattoni might have something to say about that, of course, but on the evidence of last night a raucous, daunting atmosphere and a confident, pumped-up opposition will await Ireland when they visit here in September.
Koller had made three changes to the Austrian team that drew 2-2 with Ireland in March. Fit-again Fortuna Dusseldorf keeper Robert Almer was in goal, with Julian Baumgartlinger coming into midfield and Janko preferred to in-form Austria Vienna striker Philipp Hosiner.
The most significant change to the visitors line-up since their last qualifier – also against Ireland – was the return of former Bolton striker Elmander, who partnered Zlatan Ibrahimovic in attack. And Elmander really should have put Sweden ahead in a breathless opening five minutes. However, the Galatasaray forward blazed over from 10 yards after Alexander Kacaniklic had picked him out with a low centre.
A minute later Janko found the side-netting after a long throw-in caught the Swedish defence napping but it was the visitors who settled quickest.
In the 11th minute, a deep inswinging free-kick found Ibrahimovic at the back post but Jonas Olsson awkwardly kneed the ball wide from inside the six-yard box.
Ibrahimovic was causing havoc in the air and dictating attacks on the ground and though Austria gradually began to dominate possession they did very little with it. Sweden looked comfortable but a dreadful error from Olsson gifted the home side the opener.
The West Brom defender allowed a header from Janko to bounce just outside the box, and Martin Harnik nipped in only to be clattered by Swedish keeper Andreas Isaksson.
Alaba calmy sent Isaksson the wrong way from the penalty spot to raise a thunderous roar from the 48,500 crowd.
A wild scramble soon followed in the Swedish box, and though they came close to an equaliser when Kacaniklic fired narrowly over from the edge of the area, the visitors quickly fell further behind. Harnik was once more the creator, clipping a cross into Janko, who stooped to expertly place a firm header into the right corner.
Andreas Weimann replaced Janko at the break, and though Kacaniklic came close again for Sweden, Austria who continued to push forward.
Alaba, Arnautovic and Weimann all threatened in an end-to-end to second half, with an Ibrahimovic header and a Sebastian Larsson drive bringing the best out of Almer.
Weimann had a point-blank header saved by Isaksson before Elmander set up a nervy end after being sent clear by Ibrahimovic.