Sanchez's boys end with defeat
By Ben Blackmore. Last Updated: 12/10/05 9:37pm
Northern Ireland's marvellous World Cup campaign ended in admirable defeat in Austria, as the hosts claimed a rather undeserved 2-0 victory to claim third place in the group.
Lawrie Sanchez's men played some superb, if sometimes over-zealous football and created the lion's share of the chances, only for two Rene Aufhauser strikes to break Northern Irish hearts.
The first half got off to a surprisingly competitive opening, and when the first chance came, opportunities continued to offer themselves in an end-to-end contest.
It was the hosts who threatened first and they felt they had an early penalty shout as Chris Baird leant on the crafty Andreas Ivanschitz inside the box, but the referee waved away the protests.
David Healy then came close to scoring a magical opener for the Northern Irish, flicking the ball over his head and two defenders to advance on goal, before releasing a weak effort that Jurgen Macho pushed away to his left.
Austria were thankful to Middlesbrough's Emanuel Pogatetz soon after, as the defender made a crucial last ditch tackle to deny Healy after a superb diagonal ball from Chris Brunt.
Pogatetz then showed his prowess in the opposite direction, spraying the ball wide to Markus Schopp, who delivered a telling cross that was wasted by the ineffective Roland Linz.
If Linz was guilty of missing a fine chance, Healy should have been locked away for his wayward effort moments later.
The powerful James Quinn used his strength to win the ball and lay it on a silver platter for Healy right in front of goal, but the Leeds man contrived to side-foot the ball wide from 12 yards.
The conqueror of England was proving to be a real handful and once again found room inside the Austria box, forcing Aufhauser to slice just over his own bar.
Chances kept coming for Sanchez's men and Michael Duff was unlucky to find himself just too far underneath a Brunt corner, nodding over a free header from five yards.
However, the sucker blow came for the brave Northern Irishmen right on the break, and when the goal arrived it was a delicious finish.
Schopp found himself with his back to goal inside the area, and his lay-off was perfect for Aufhauser who proceeded to bend the ball sublimely past Taylor from 18 yards.
The goal and the interval did not seem to dampen Northern Irish spirits, however, and they were soon creating more opportunities as Steven Davis and Keith Gillespie drove them forward from midfield.
Damien Johnson was extremely lucky not to see red just seven minutes into the second half, after what can only be described as a disgraceful challenge on Schopp.
Two minutes later, the Austrians thought they had doubled the lead as Martin Stranzl cleverly redirected the ball past Taylor, only to find himself an inch offside.
Northern Ireland seemed to become rattled as the game went on, with Healy and Baird showing their frustration all-too clearly at times in the eyes of the referee.
However, if there is one hallmark of a Sanchez side it is a never-say-die attitude, and the impressive Davis and Brunt both went close to levelling as the visitors began to build some momentum.
With 15 minutes remaining, the affair finally boiled over as it had threatened to do all night, and it was no surprise that Johnson was at the heart of the incident.
The combative Birmingham midfielder produced a dangerous late challenge on Pogatetz, who reacted aggressively, although not illegally, to the provocation.
The referee felt that it was enough to warrant a red card for both players, and Pogatetz was left to leave the field on a stretcher.
Austria were left fuming with the decision, but Linz nearly lightened their mood as the clock ticked down, forcing a top class save from Taylor as the ball flew towards the top corner.
Northern Ireland ran out of steam towards the end, and Aufhauser added a second neat finish late on to give the score a flattering look from an Austrian point of view.
Austria v Northern Ireland player ratings.
|Austria||Team Statistics||Northern Ireland|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|7||Shots on Target||4|
|9||Shots off Target||5|
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying
Wed 12th Oct - Group A
Andorra0 - 3Armenia
Finland0 - 3Czech Rep
Netherlands0 - 0Macedonia
Wed 12th Oct - Group B
Greece1 - 0Georgia
Albania0 - 1Turkey
Kazakhstan1 - 2Denmark
Wed 12th Oct - Group H
Malta1 - 1Bulgaria
Hungary0 - 0Croatia
Sweden3 - 1Iceland
Wed 12th Oct - Group C
Luxembourg0 - 2Estonia
Slovakia0 - 0Russia
Portugal3 - 0Latvia
Wed 12th Oct - Group G
San Marino0 - 6Spain
Serbia1 - 0Bosnia
Lithuania1 - 1Belgium
Wed 12th Oct - Group E
Belarus0 - 1Norway
Italy2 - 1Moldova
Slovenia0 - 3Scotland
Wed 12th Oct - Group F
Austria2 - 0N Ireland
England2 - 1Poland
Wales2 - 0Azerbaijan
Wed 12th Oct - Group D
France4 - 0Cyprus
Rep Ireland0 - 0Switzerland
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group A
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group B
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group C
|4||Republic of Ireland||10||14|
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group D
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group E
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group F
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group G
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group H
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group I