Austria 1-0 Northern Ireland: Marko Arnautovic strike beats Michael O'Neill's men
Austria go second in Nations League Group B3, Northern Ireland bottom without a point
By Charlotte Marsh
Last Updated: 13/10/18 8:31am
Marko Arnautovic's strike was enough to see Austria beat Northern Ireland 1-0 in their Nations League fixture on Friday.
After a tepid first half in Vienna, the second period burst into life but it took until the 71st minute before there was a goal, with Austria captain Arnautovic sweeping home.
Substitute Will Grigg could have equalised 13 minutes later but saw his header rebound off the far post as Northern Ireland failed to score for their fifth successive away game.
Austria now go second in Nations League Group B3 behind Bosnia and Herzegovina in first, while Northern Ireland are bottom without a point.
Austria: Lindner (6), Ulmer (6), Hinteregger (6), Prodl (6), Lainer (7), Ilsanker (6), Sabitzer (7), Zulj (7), Lazaro (7), Arnautovic (8), Burgstaller (7).
Subs used: Schopf (4), Kainz (4), Dragovic (n/a).
Northern Ireland: Peacock-Farrell (6), Lewis (7), J Evans (7), McNair (7), Cathcart (7), Saville (6), Davis (6), Norwood (6), Ferguson (7), Dallas (6), Magennis (6).
Subs used: C Evans (5), Vassell (6), Grigg (6).
Man of the match: Marko Arnautovic.
The first half lacked clear-cut chances, although there was an unusual sight in the 17th minute. Bailey Peacock-Farrell picked up a back pass from Jonny Evans in the area, with the referee awarding Austria an indirect free kick and booking the young goalkeeper. However, Marko Arnautovic's effort smashed into the midriff of Josh Magennis before going wide.
Northern Ireland had their best chance of the opening 45 minutes on the half-hour mark. Oliver Norwood glided a wonderful diagonal pass into the area, with Shane Ferguson met with his head at the back post but could only send it over the crossbar.
The second half was a much livelier affair, and it began apace as Peacock-Farrell was forced into two fine saves. A poor clearance from McNair allowed Arnautovic to dart through the area before striking, but his effort was pushed away by the Leeds goalkeeper. Moments later, an Arnautovic cross found Marcel Sabitzer in the area but as he hit on the turn, Peacock-Farrell got down low to save before pouncing on the rebound.
West Ham striker Marko Arnautovic captained Austria, while Josh Magennis started up from for Northern Ireland in the absence of Kyle Lafferty. He, along with Shane Ferguson and Paddy McNair, are three changes from the last Nations League outing against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Steven Davis should have scored for Northern Ireland in the 53rd minute after a poor clearance from Sebastian Prodl allowed the Northern Ireland captain onto the ball before bursting into the area and striking, but his effort whistled past the face of goal and just wide of the far post.
Austria made the breakthrough in the 71st minute as Arnautovic scored what proved to be the winner. Peter Zulj threaded the ball to the West Ham striker down the left of the box and he easily beat McNair before driving into the box and sweeping home. There were calls from Northern Ireland for offside, but he was well onside.
Northern Ireland had a golden chance to equalise in the 84th minute when McNair delivered a fizzing corner, which Grigg nodded across the face of goal at the near post. It pinged onto the far upright and into the hands of Lindner, with debutante Kyle Vassell unable to poke home the loose ball at point blank range.
- Northern Ireland have won just two of their last 10 matches in all competitions (D2 L6).
- Austria have won seven of their last eight home games, losing only to Brazil in June (0-3).
- Northern Ireland have now gone 462 minutes without a goal away from home since Steven Davis scored a 78th-minute penalty against San Marino.
- Marko Arnautovic has been directly involved in seven goals in his last eight games for Austria (four goals, three assists).
Man of the match - Marko Arnautovic
His captaincy was questioned before the game, but Arnautovic put in a leading performance from the front. He took his goal well and continued to provide attacking chances for his side, but there was some good defending from Northern Ireland - particularly in the first half - to stop him from adding to his tally in his 75th cap.
Northern Ireland face Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Grbavica Stadium in the Nations League on Monday, while Austria will play an international friendly away in Denmark on Tuesday.