Ireland are sitting pretty with a two point advantage atop group D after a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Austria in Vienna last Saturday, November 12th.

James McClean’s 48th minute goal – his third World Cup Qualifier goal in two games – ultimately decided the game in Ireland’s favour and ,when coupled with the stalemate between Wales and Serbia at the Cardiff City Stadium, Ireland are now out in front as group D’s leading lights with four games gone.

It was a game that was always likely to prove difficult for Ireland as before the night’s proceedings, they hadn’t beaten Austria since 1963 – whilst Ireland’s opponents were also above them in the Fifa World Rankings.

As the home side, Austria got about setting the tone early on and they largely dominated the first-half proceedings. Austria’s Marc Janko’s shot was expertly saved by Ireland’s Darren Randolph and despite 6 first-half shots on target, the home side failed to capitalise on any of their chances.

Ireland offered little in the way of attacking threat and despite being relatively lucky to remain on level terms for the duration of the first-half, they were quite defensively resolute – a hallmark of this current Irish team.

And then, as the second half got underway, the defining moment of the match and the winning of the game. David Meyler broke up an Austrian attack and swiftly found Wes Hoolahan on the half-way line, who himself played in McClean who cut inside to bullet a shot past Austrian goalkeeper Oznan from an acute angle.

Austria pressed and dominated the game from thereafter but created little of substance, such was the effectiveness of Ireland’s defensive resoluteness.

However, a key moment arrived with the clock showing 88 minutes. Janko pulls clear of Seamus Coleman at the far post and had, for all intents and purposes, a free header. The Austrian fluffed what was his side’s best chance of the half and one that ultimately sealed their fate.

Ireland, having being pushed back for remainder of the closing stages, went on to claim victory that ensures they’re in good health in group D as things stand with surprise Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales next to come.

Ger Ball

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