Defence and hopes crumble late on as Alaba and Austria finish Ireland off
Ireland overrun late on in Vienna and Wilson mistake finally lets in Bayern Munich star
Austria’s David Alaba (second left) scores the only goal of the game against Ireland at the Ernst Happel Stadium. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Austria 1 Republic of Ireland 0: As Giovanni Trapattoni’s men were utterly overrun late on here in what had, for a long while been an even contest, there were moments when this seemed destined to be another Moscow.
The point, of course, however heroically it had been achieved, wouldn’t have been nearly enough on a win or bust night for the visitors but at least it would have given the thousand of travelling fans something to shout about and silence their hosts.
Instead they fled, quickly and quietly, as Austria celebrated a win that keeps alive their hopes of making it to the World Cup finals in Brazil next year.
Austria’s win was well deserved, with Ireland crumbling yet again in the closing stages as the pressure was stepped up and another individual error, this time by Marc Wilson six minutes from time, presented David Alaba with a scoring opportunity on a plate.
His emphatic finish means Ireland are not only all but mathematically out of this World Cup but will almost certainly end up having taken a total of two points from the three sides likely to finish above them.
Trapattoni, love him or loath him for it, stuck to his guns to the bitter end, with more like-for-like replacements, including introducing Conor Sammon just before the goal – and no Wes Hoolahan.
Had his side taken their chances early on they might have been in front at the break, with Shane Long, Jon Walters, Anthony Pilkington and Robbie Keane all getting the sort of chances away teams must score from if they harbour serious hopes of winning.
Instead, the half ended on a sour note with John O’Shea booked for wrapping himself around Andreas Weimann as the pair challenged for a high ball and Keane, more pointlessly, also being shown a yellow as the players made their way to the tunnel for protesting the decision that will keep the Sunderland player out of next month’s game in Cologne.
Worse was to follow, with what looked a far harsher caution handed to Richard Dunne for hand ball not long into the second half, ensuring he will also miss the Germany game .
For the manager, the positives up until that point included the number of times Ireland’s attacking players were allowed time or space around a hesitant Austrian defence.
His side’s best move of the match involved James McCarthy releasing Long down the right, from where the striker played a nicely-weighted low, curling cross towards the edge of the six-yard box.
Robert Almer cut the ball out just before it reached Jon Walters at the far post.
Pilkington, meanwhile, at times looked like a man who had not spent too much time around his new team-mates but he did have his moments, and should have had a more memorable one a little over half an hour in when, after a Long run to the line had ended tamely, he nicked the ball from Julian Baumgartlinger and, almost unchallenged, gave himself a decent angle before firing low into the side-netting.
At the back, though, Ireland were busy as well, with David Forde having to make a couple of solid saves as well as a few sweeper-style interventions.
More than once he looked uncomfortable coming to clear and he badly fumbled one free just short of the hour mark. He did better on the shot-stopping front, saving impressively from Alaba when the Bayern midfielder skipped through and let loose from long distance.
For the goal, when it came, there was nothing he could have done.
Long before it, his hoofing the ball long often caused problems and when one kick-out, apparently aimed at Paul Green, came straight back with a wave of red shirts in pursuit, the locals really should have opened the scoring.
However, Weimann hit Fuchs’s low angled cross directly at the goalkeeper.
Ireland’s defence generally looked composed for the first 60 minutes, with O’Shea, until he was replaced 50 minutes in with an ankle injury, the best of the back four.
After that, as it increasingly became backs to the wall stuff, they all did their bit and, as when Séamus Coleman somehow blocked efforts from Baumgartlinger then Martin Harnik in quick succession, sometimes did so heroically.
Until the goal, Alaba, for all his influence, rarely inflicted anything like the damage Zlatan Ibrahimovic did last Friday. While he looked a constant threat, the visitors looked better prepared for the challenge with McCarthy, Green and the wide men chipping in as required.
Green did well, constantly looking to close opponents down, winning the odd bit of possession and moving the ball along tidily to a team-mate, not to mention clearing off the line from Marko Arnautovic at one point.
McCarthy was a positive influence who always looked capable of making a mark until the tide turned decisively in favour of the hosts.
From then on, it was simply a question of whether the Irish could hang on for a point when everybody knew they needed three.
Similarly desperate to win, the Austrians looked ever more the team likely to do so and, in Marc Janko, even came equipped with a bona fide Plan B.
It paid off in the end.