Another Barren Away Day For North, As Striker Crisis Deepens!!!
A 70th minute winner from Marko Arnautovic condemned Northern Ireland to their second defeat in the UEFA Nations League, providing a hammer blow to any hopes of promotion to League A.
If anything, relegation is now looking a huge possibility for Michael O’Neill’s men ahead of Tuesday’s crucial tie with Bosnia & Herzegovina in Sarajevo.
And the North, who have now failed to score in five consecutive away games, and fail to win any of their last six competitive fixtures, once again had their finishing to rue in Vienna.
In a dire first half, where neither goalkeeper was forced into a save, the best of the chances probably felt to Shane Ferguson. The Derry man’s header from a deep Ollie Norwood cross sailing aimlessly over the Austrian goal in the 26th minute.
If clear cut chances were few and far between in the opening forty-five minutes, things certainly rocketed into gear at the start of the second-half, when not ninety seconds old, Paddy McNair forced Heinz Lidner into a terrific save. The Grasshoppers stopper beating away a side footed effort fro the full-back which looked destined for the top corner.
Not to be outdone, the Austrians replied with interest. First, Arnautovic worried the Irish defence into coughing up position, but his low effort was smartly saved low to his left by Bailey Peacock-Farrell in the 49th minute.
The Leeds United youngster, winning only his third international cap was called into action again a moment later, when RB Leipzig winger Marcel Subitzer was given time and space to swivel in the box, before unleashing a right footed drive that Peacock-Farrell did well to parry before smothering.
Northern Ireland’s best chance of the game came seven minutes into the half – and oh what a miss from Steven Davis.
The skipper slipped the Austrian defence to go one-on-one with Lidner, but could only manage to drag a feeble shot left and wide. Perhaps a taste of how things have been going in front of goal of late.
The home side would eventually make them pay.
Arnautovic who has looked so dangerous already this season for West Ham United, was allowed to drift off the back of Paddy McNair onto a long ball. The marksman stole in from the right before finishing low and hard past the advancing Peacock-Farrell.
It was a sucker blow to the travelling side, who thre caution to the wind thereafter, introducing Will Grigg and debutante Kyle Vassell for the last ten minutes.
Grigg did manage to fashion a header from a McNair corner with six minutes left, that did everything but nestle in the bototm corner of the Austrian net, clipping the post before bouncing into the arms of a waiting Lidner.
But toothlessness in front of goal would again cost the North, who must avoid defeat in Bosnia to maintain their League B status.
Final Score from Vienna. Austria 1-0 Northern Ireland