“People have done a lot more for their country than breaking their legs – people have died for their country, so we want people to put their bodies on the line, give everything they have got.” Was the rousing message from a determined Roy Keane prior to the game and the packed out Aviva got just that, in the second half at least, as Johnny Walters struck a late equalizer to rescue a point for Ireland following Martin Hintereggers first half opener.
Ireland, came into this afternoon’s game in great spirits following the impressive 3-1 victory over Uruguay a week ago but it was the visitors who dominated possession early on with the Boys in Green frustratingly electing to hit long balls to an isolated Johnny Walters. The depleted opposition, missing joint top scorers Marc Janko (tonsillitis) and Marko Arnautovic (suspension), knew that only a win would keep their hopes alive of qualifying for next years World Cup.
It took until the 23rd minute for the home side to carve any real opening and it was Walters who should have done better following great work down the left by Stephen Ward. The left backs first time cross was delicately laid off by James McClean and the Stoke front man got his effort all sorts of wrong from the edge of the box.
This glorious chance failed lift the home side or build any sort of momentum and in the 31st minute the Austrians took the lead thanks to a “straight off the training ground” corner kick routine. David Alaba’s low corner kick was stepped over not once, but twice and Martin Hinteregger smashed home his left foot drive.
The bouncing home support had little or nothing to cheer, bar a crunching James McClean tackle, having seen just one goal in four hours of home competitive football. Boss Martin O’Neill switched to a 4-4-2 with Robbie Brady coming out to the left wing and McClean going up top with Walters in an attempt to drag their way back into the game. Referee David Fernandez Borbalan brought the frustrating half to an end with Ireland desperately lacking creativity and bravery on the ball.
The hosts were extremely lucky not to find themselves 2-0 staright after half time when they were carved open with some good wing play by Valentino Lazaro, who’s cut back was somehow missed by both Januzovic and Alaba as they both stood free inside the box.
In a bold move, striker Daryl Murphy replaced left back Stephen Ward as Ireland went to three at the back. A half chance from an Arter volley and a penalty appeal on Murphy lifted the crowd as momentum built for the Boys in Green. The home fans got what they called for as Wes Hoolahan replaced Harry Arter and the playmaker was straight into the action, delivering a dangerous inswinging cross that somehow didn’t cross the line following a touch from full back Stefan Lainer. Martin O’Neills troops went closer again with just 12 minutes left that man again, Lainer, was in the right place at the right time to clear Walters header off the line.
In the 84th minute Ireland finally got what they deserved, from the second half showing at least, Brady’s long hopeful clearance was allowed to bounce by the Austria back line, and Walters raced through, out muscling Dragovic and firing home the volley to make it 1-1.
Just minutes later the Aviva Stadium erupted as Walters bundled home, what looked the winner, only to have their hearts broken by the referee’s whistle in a very contentious decision. The Stoke front man just seemed to have the run on the defender and was stronger in the air.
Ireland had to settle for the point in the end, despite a spirited second half it will definitely feel like two points dropped against a weakened opposition.
Rep. of Ireland: 23. Darren Randolph, 2. Cyrus Christie, 18. Kevin Long, 20. Shane Duffy, 17. Stephen Ward (9. Daryl Murphy), 22. Harry Arter (14. Wes Hoolahan), 13. Jeff Hendrick, 6. Glenn Whelan (c) (7. Aidan McGeady) 10. Robbie Brady, 11. James McClean, 19. John Walters
Subs: 1. Kieran Westwood, 16. Colin Doyle, 3. Alex Pearce, 4. John O’Shea, 5. Richard Keogh, 7. Aidan McGeady, 8. Eunan O’Kane, 9. Daryl Murphy, 12. Daryl Horgan, 14. Wes Hoolahan, 15. Conor Hourihane, 21. Jonny Hayes
Manager: Martin O’Neill
Austria: 1. Heinz Lindner, 2. Stefan Lainer, 3. Aleksander Dragovic, 4. Martin Hinteregger, 8. David Alaba, 9. Florian Kainz (20. Michael Gregoritsch), 10. Zlatko Junuzovic, (7. Florian Grillitsch) 14. Julian Baumgartlinger (c), 15. Sebastoan Prodl, 19. Guido Burgstaller (11. Martin Harnik), 22. Valentino Lazaro
Subs: 23. Daniel Bachmann, 12 Markus Kuster, 5. Kevin Wimmer, 6. Konrad Laimer, 7. Florian Grillitsch, 11. Martin Harnik, 13. Stefan Stangl, 16. Louis Schaub, 17. Florian Klein, 18. Kevin Danso, 20. Michael Gregoritsch, 21. Deni Alar
Manager: Marcel Koller
Referee: David Fernandez Borbalan