David Alaba’s deflected effort in stoppage time salvaged a 2-2 draw for Austria in their Group C World Cup qualifying match against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin.
The Bayern Munich midfielder’s effort ricocheted off substitute Sean St. Ledger before looping over the helpless David Forde in the final minute of play.
Ireland looked likely to hold out for what would have been a vital win after they initially came from behind to lead 2-1.
Martin Harnik scored early in the first half for the visitors before Jon Walters restored parity from the penalty spot and then grabbed a second deep into first-half stoppage time.
In truth, it was no more than Austria deserved as they exerted real pressure on the Irish defence throughout the entire second half, but the draw leaves neither side any better off in Group C.
With both sides knowing that a defeat would all but end their hopes of reaching next year’s World Cup in Brazil, it was a cagey opening to the match but it was the visitors that settled down early on.
Glen Whelan gave away a cheap free-kick deep into his own half in the third minute which Alaba took. The youngster opted to nonchalantly shoot at goal which caught Forde by surprise, as the Ireland custodian sprawled to his right; he was relieved as the ball flew past his far post.
The visitors continued to control the ball, as they overran the hosts in the middle of the park.
They did not have to do a great deal to take the lead however, as they were gifted a goal from Ciaran Clark.
The Aston Villa defender attempted a drag back under pressure and was dispossessed by Zlatko Junuzovic who advanced on goal, squaring to Harnik who had the simplest of tasks to roll the ball past the Forde.
Ireland failed to respond to the early set back and continued to soak up a sustained amount of pressure for the following 10 minutes without being in any real danger.
However, just 13 minutes later the hosts were given an opportunity to get themselves back in the game as Emanuel Pogatetz’s sloppy challenge brought down Shane Long in the penalty area, gifting Ireland a penalty.
Walters, who has missed a number of penalties for Stoke City in recent weeks, was given the job of pulling his side level. The striker showed broad shoulders to step up and smash the ball into the bottom left-hand corner of the net, sending the Austrian keeper the wrong way.
James McClean then really found his feet and was pivotal in every Ireland attack, featuring heavily throughout the remainder of the first half.
Time and time again the Sunderland winger found space on the flank and sent in dangerous crosses that the Austrians struggled to deal with.
And it was through McClean that Ireland were able to take the lead as the youngster ventured down the left to have a pop at goal which took a deflection and out for a corner.
Whelan’s resulting corner was whipped in from the left and was met by Walters who had pulled away from his marker to expertly glance the ball into the back of the net via a slight deflection off the far post.
Unfortunately for the hosts they were unable to continue in the same vein as the first half ended as they allowed the Austrians too much time on the ball through the duration of the second half.
McClean had Ireland’s best chance of the second half with a free-kick that brushed past the side netting after just four minutes but in, in truth, it was all Austria after that.
Harnik fired into the grateful arms of Forde from distance before Gyorgy Garics's acrobatic volley from 15 yards flew narrowly wide of the left post.
Aleksander Dragovic forced his keeper into a superb reflex save following a rare Ireland attack with 20 minutes remaining as the hosts searched for a decisive third goal.
It was not to come, however, as Alaba snatched a dramatic equaliser in the third minute of stoppage time.
Harnik collected the ball on the left flank and, thanks to Christian Fuchs’s smart overlapping run, was able to cut inside of his man and roll the ball into the feet of Alaba. The Bayern Munich man took one touch to get the ball out of his feet before drilling his effort towards goal.
The outstretched leg of St. Ledger helped the ball up and over the fingertips of the unfortunate Forde as Ireland were denied the chance to move into second spot of Group C.
MAN OF THE MATCH
David Alaba (Austria): Not only did the youngster snatch a vital equalising goal for Austria, he was a constant thorn in Ireland's side during the 90 minutes. The midfielder worked tirelessly off the ball and was a real driving force possession, showing maturity beyond his years.
IRELAND: Forde 6; Coleman 5, O'Shea 5, Clark 4, Wilson 5; Walters 7, Whelan 5, McCarthy 7, McClean 7; Sammon 6, Long 7; Subs: St. Ledger 4, Green 3.
AUSTRIA: Lindner 5; Garics 5, Pogatetz 6, Dragovic 5, Fuchs 7; Arnautovic 7, Junzovic 5, Kavlak 6, Alaba 8; Hosiner 6, Harnik 6; Subs: Weimann 6, Baumgartlinger 5, Janko 5.
- Sports & Recreation
- David Alaba
- David Forde