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Austrian aces leave it late

Saturday, 26 March 2005

By Trevor Haylett at the Millennium Stadium

[1] Two goals in the final ten minutes gave Austria a 2-0 victory and improved their challenge for the top two positions in Group 6. Substitute Ivica Vastic and Martin Stranzl scored to decide a scrappy affair in Cardiff.

Personnel changes

[2] Both teams were barely recognisable from their previous qualifying matches last October and only four players survived from each lineup. Austria were badly hit by injuries with Markus Schopp and Roland Kollmann, who together have contributed five of their goals in the campaign, missing along with defender Martin Hiden. Suspension ruled out Markus Kiesenebner and Dietmar K├╝hbauer.

New manager

[3] Wales have experienced a heavy turnover of personnel with John Toshack replacing Mark Hughes as manager and seven players announcing their international retirement. Ryan Giggs captained the side on his 50th appearance while Carl Fletcher and Sam Ricketts made their competitive debuts.

Dangerous crosses

[4] Giggs was prominent with a number of dangerous crosses and in the 12th minute Carl Robinson should have profited, heading weakly at Helge Payer from close in. Welsh marking was similarly lax as Anton Ehmann met a corner from the right but his direction was awry.

Chances for both sides

[5] Stranzl then broke through twice but he was first unable to keep his shot down and then, after Danny Gabbidon and Fletcher had made a mess of possession, he fired the second opening into the side-netting. Then, Giggs swayed past two defenders but Payer blocked his path.

Physical battle

[6] John Hartson was relishing his physical battle though the service to him was not always of a good standard. When Fletcher played him in with a short pass just past the hour the Celtic FC man appeared at first to have dribbled away from Payer but the goalkeeper's touch was just enough to force Hartson wide.

Wales substitution

[7] With 15 minutes remaining, Toshack sent on Robert Earnshaw in a bid to force the breakthrough but it was Austria who nearly seized the initiative as Mario Haas laid on an opening for Andreas Ivanschitz which flew too high. Haas followed that by curling an effort just beyond the far post.

Austria breakthrough

[8] With Austria's next attack they at last made an opening count. Giggs gave the ball away cheaply in midfield and a long pass gave Christian Mayrleb the chance to weigh up his options. He delayed while Vastic made up ground and the substitute's left-foot drive tore into the net. Four minutes later a mistake by Robert Page gifted a second goal for Stranzl. The two sides meet again in Vienna on Wednesday.

Martin Stranzl celebrates his goal