James McClean strikes to sink Austria and send Ireland top of group
World Cup qualifying, Group D, Ernst Happel Stadion - Austria 0 Republic of Ireland 1 (McClean 48).
James McClean scored the only goal of the game as Republic of Ireland secured a vital three points away against Austria in their World Cup qualifier.
The West Bromich Albion winger, who now has three goals in his last four qualifying games, struck three minutes after the restart and Ireland held on for a huge win.
Austria - whose World Cup 2018 hopes now appear to be over - started the game well and could have been ahead at the break. Marcel Sabitzer came closest when his shot hit the crossbar and Marc Janko somehow missed the rebound from a couple of yards.
But Ireland stunned the hosts almost immediately after the restart with a goal on the break when Wes Hoolahan played through McClean who made no mistake, sliding the ball between the legs of goalkeeper Ramazan Ozcan.
Austria should have levelled the scores deep into injury time but Janko’s nightmare continued as he incredibly headed wide from three yards.
Martin O’Neill’s side have now recorded 10 points from their opening four games and are currently three points above second-placed Serbia who play Wales later on Saturday. Meanwhile, Austria remain in fourth place and are now six points behind Eire.
Austria's Marko Arnautovic in action with Republic of Ireland's Harry ArterReuters
Group D is now in Ireland’s hands – Martin O’Neill would have been thrilled with a point before kick-off but to win the match is quite an incredible result. Ireland are now in a great position with a home match against Wales coming up next. As for Austria, they simply haven’t recovered from a nightmare European Championships campaign. They were awful.
MAN OF THE MATCH
James McClean (Ireland) – Showed incredible composure in front of goal to give his side a priceless opener which proved to be the difference. Martin O’Neill seems to get the best out of the West Brom winger.
13’ - CLOSE! McClean tries his luck on the half-volley from distance and it goes inches wide. The referee spotted a deflection though and Ireland have a corner.
30’ - CHANCE! Ireland go close. Brady delivers a free-kick towards the back post where Walters glances it wide. Duffy was better poised to score but the Stoke City player wasn't to know.
38’ - HOW DO THEY MISS? Sabitzer's chips the ball over Randolph but it crashes off the bar, the rebound falls to Janko who sends his shot wide from five yards out!
43’ - CHANCE! Walters spurns a glorious opportunity to give Ireland a half-time lead! The forward gets free in the penalty area and is picked out with a wonderful cross from Brady but he can't keep his first-time effort down.
48’ – GOAL: Austria 0-1 Ireland: The visitors score on the break! Hoolahan releases McClean with a wonderful ball and the West Brom winger keeps his cool and slides it beyond Ozcan's legs to give the visitors a crucial lead.
50’ – GOAL DISALLOWED! Walters' heads in from Brady's free-kick but the celebrations are cut short as the linesman had his flag raised.
64’ - CLOSE! The space opens up for Alaba who tries his luck from 30 yards... and it's not far away! It's slightly too high, much to the relief of Randolph who looked beaten.
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and Austria's Marko Arnautovic Reuters / Leonhard Foeger LiveEurosport
90’+3 - MISS! What a chance for Austria but it's squandered once again! Janko sends a header wide from three yards out! It's going to be Ireland's night!
James McClean scored in consecutive games for Ireland for the first time since October 2014.
Ireland have won three consecutive internationals for the first time since October 2015.
Martin O’Neill’s men are yet to lose in 2018 World Cup qualifying, winning three and drawing one of their four games to date.