Wales 1-0 Austria: Ben Woodburn scores winner in World Cup Qualifier
By James Kilpatrick
Last Updated: 03/09/17 8:40am
Wales secured a gritty 1-0 win against Austria thanks to 17-year-old debutant Ben Woodburn's strike in their Group D World Cup Qualifier.
The 69th-minute substitute smashed in the only goal of the night from outside the box five minutes after coming on in Saturday's clash in Cardiff to keep Welsh hopes of making next summer's finals in Russia alive.
Despite Austria's persistence and attacking threat through David Alaba and Marko Arnautovic, the visitors were unable to break the deadlock in a tight contest where Woodburn emerged the hero.
Wales' victory puts an end to their five-game drawing streak, with Woodburn enjoying a debut to remember. Chris Coleman's third-placed side are now four points off group leaders Serbia, and two behind Republic of Ireland, with three games of qualifying remaining.
Wales started the first half brightly, with Gareth Bale's slightly scuffed shot unsettling the Austria backline early on before Aaron Ramsey caused a few problems with his driven shot over the bar in the eighth minute.
But Austria would soon gain control and provided plenty of dangerous situations down the left flank through some lovely combination work between Alaba and Arnautovic.
Arnautovic had the clearest chance in the first half after playing a sublime one-two with Julian Baumgartlinger. However, with just goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey to beat from close-range, the West Ham winger struck over the bar.
Joe Allen and Neil Taylor were both suspended for Wales but Gareth Bale returned after being banned for the draw in Serbia in June. Aaron Ramsey started after he suffered a kick to the calf in Arsenal's 4-0 defeat to Liverpool on Sunday.
In the 42nd minute, Marcel Sabitzer gave Wales another real cause for concern as he had a strike in plenty of space from the edge of the penalty box, but his drive skidded just wide of Hennessey's right-hand post as Wales held on until half-time.
Wales responded brightly in the second half, with Bale trying a dangerous, dipping shot on goal 10 minutes in, forcing Heinz Lindner to tip wide of the post. Ramsey also had a low attempt flicked away by Lindner as the hosts continued to press for a goal.
Woodburn proved to be the hero as, just five minutes after coming off the bench, he picked up Kevin Danso's poor clearance and smashed his strike into the net from 25 yards out.
The goal entirely shifted the tone of the match, with Austria looking rattled. Hal Robson-Kanu's last-minute shot over the bar was quickly followed up by Bale's spectacular overhead kick that was parried away by Lindner, ensuring Wales finished the game deserved winners.
The manager - Chris Coleman
"We've got a strong bench. It was a great game for young Ben Woodburn to make his debut because it doesn't get much tougher than that with so much pressure.
"You wouldn't have thought it though, because his composure was fantastic. I'm delighted for him. It was one of those games where Austria will feel hard done by, but on the balance of the second half, we were the stronger team."
The pundit - Craig Bellamy
"Austria had a number of chances - they were dominating the game. We needed to win so something had to change. Austria will have been conscious Ireland play Serbia on Wednesday. The win puts us right back into the group with a win over Moldova.
"We see a special talent and hopefully Woodburn goes on to fulfil that, but he's already made a big impact."
Man of the Match - Ben Woodburn
Despite only being on the pitch for just over 20 minutes, Woodburn had a fantastic debut. Not only did the young teenager impressively score his first Wales goal to deliver a vital win, but his energetic pressing and willingness to attack completely altered the mood of the match.
Wales travel to take on Moldova on Tuesday evening, live on Sky Sports Mix, while Austria face Georgia at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion at the same time.