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Elliott equaliser settles thriller

Wednesday, 13 October 2004

By Kenny Archer at Windsor Park

[1] Northern Ireland earned a dramatic draw against Austria as substitute Stuart Elliott scored in the fourth minute of added time to share the FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 6 spolis.

Fitting climax

[2] It was a fitting climax to a game that swung one way then the other, with the hosts trailing 1-0, leading 2-1, and falling behind 18 minutes from the end when Austria captain Markus Schopp claimed his second goal of the game. He finished off a pass from centre-forward Christian Mayrleb, who himself had equalised just after the hour mark, beating Manchester United FC goalkeeper Roy Carroll low at his near post.

Substitution pays dividends

[3] Seconds earlier, Colin Murdock had headed Northern Ireland in front. But falling behind again prompted manager Lawrie Sanchez to send on three substitutes in the closing stages, and that brought its reward when Elliott slid in a headed pass from James Quinn.

Early chances

[4] Northern Ireland began the game brightly. Quinn shot straight at Austria goalkeeper Manninger in the opening minute, and Murdock did likewise with a close-range free header from a curling George McCartney free-kick. David Healy, back from suspension, then sent a free-kick just wide of the left-hand post.

Visitors clinical

[5] In contrast, the Austrians were clinical, scoring from their first serious attack. Schopp combined with Dietmar K├╝hbauer and Mayrleb to send Ivica Vastic in on the right, and his low cross was drilled in by the onrushing captain. However, Northern Ireland did not let their heads drop and got the goal their play deserved. Jeff Whitley found Healy on the left and the striker flicked the ball up before brilliantly volleying over Manninger and into the net.

Dramatic end

[6] The AC Siena goalkeeper was then forced to save well twice shortly before the break, turning round a header by Quinn from a Keith Gillespie cross, then tipping a McCartney effort over the bar. The second half took its time to come to life but the final half-hour provided wonderful drama as Murdock, Mayrleb and Schopp all scored before Elliott's dramatic denouement.

March fixtures

[7] Now four points adrift of second-placed Poland - who won 3-1 in Vienna on Saturday - Austria visit Wales on 26 March. On that day Northern Ireland, with three points from four games, play England at Old Trafford.

Stuart Elliott celebrates his last-gasp equaliser