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Dublin: 16 °C Wednesday 21 August, 2019

Ideal result for Ireland as Arnautovic double denies Wales victory

Despite twice going ahead through Gareth Bale-inspired goals, Wales had to settle for a point from their World Cup qualifier in Austria as Serbia claimed all three points in Moldova.

Source: WeSpeakFootball 1/YouTube

A MARKO ARNAUTOVIC double meant Wales ultimately had to settle for a 2-2 draw against Austria in World Cup qualifying in Vienna.

Gareth Bale was central to both Welsh goals in the Group D clash, with Joe Allen striking a glorious effort from a left-wing cross, before Kevin Wimmer unwittingly bundled a long throw-in into his own net.

However, Arnautovic equalised on both occasions – either side of the break – after Chris Coleman’s men momentarily switched off at the back as Wales missed the chance to add another victory to their opening 4-0 win over Moldova.

Austria v Wales - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying - Group D - Ernst Happel Stadium Source: John Walton

Although Austria had flopped at Euro 2016 – where Wales made it to the semi-finals – and scraped by Georgia in their first qualifier, their strong home record and unrelenting pressure still made this a fine point for Coleman’s side. The result leaves the pair tied at the top of the group on four points from two matches.

The first half set the tone with a frantic pace; a first chance mustered by Austria when they won a corner on the right and Wimmer nodded David Alaba’s delivery straight at Wayne Hennessey.

A more dramatic stop was to quickly follow at the other end, though, with Robert Almer producing a stunning reaction save to turn Bale’s header over from Ben Davies’ wayward volley.

Austria v Wales - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying - Group D - Ernst Happel Stadium Source: John Walton

The subsequent corner was then directed wide by Bale, but the Real Madrid forward found space again after 22 minutes with devastating effect to create the opener.

Accelerating away down the left, Bale centred towards Sam Vokes, and, as Austria twice failed to clear sufficiently, the ball fell perfectly for Allen to smash a sumptuous strike inside the far post from the edge of the box.

However, the lead was short-lived, with the leveller arriving six minutes later.

Alaba was given time and space to pick a pass outside the area, and he duly found the run of Allen’s Stoke City team-mate Arnautovic, who – having left marker Chris Gunter for dead – stooped to nudge the ball past Hennessey.

Austria immediately set out in pursuit of a second, and the Wales goalkeeper parried low from Zlatko Junuzovic, before diving high to block an inadvertent prod from Davies.

And the visitors’ resilience paid off on the stroke of half-time as Bale again wreaked havoc.

Austria v Wales - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying - Group D - Ernst Happel Stadium Source: John Walton

The 27-year-old’s long throw was flicked on by Vokes for James Chester to nod at goal. Almer saved, but the rebound struck the prone Wimmer and crept into the net.

Just three minutes after the restart, though, more lax Wales defending allowed Arnautovic to double his tally.

Allen’s loose pass escaped Chester and allowed the Austrian forward in on goal again. He never looked like being caught and coolly dispatched a finish beyond Hennessey.

The hosts settled once more, dominating possession, but the noisy travelling fans provided vital encouragement as Coleman’s men shut the door on Austria time and time again.

Chester had the game’s next chance, looping a header onto the roof of the net from a corner, before Bale’s incisive run and square ball was desperately diverted clear by substitute goalkeeper Ramazan Ozcan.

There would be no further breakthrough at either end, though, with Wales now focusing on Georgia while Austria travel to Serbia.

Elsewhere in the group, goals from Filip Kostić, Branislav Ivanović and Dušan Tadić ensured a comfortable 3-0 victory for Serbia in Moldova.

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