Austria recorded their first points of Euro 2022 on Monday evening, securing a trickier-than-expected 2-0 win over Northern Ireland at St Mary’s.
Kenny Shiels’ side defended gallantly on the south coast but following Simone Magill’s tragic injury last time out – one of their few full-time players – making things happen in the final third was always going to be challenging.
And so it proved, with Austria edging ahead early on from a free kick before substitute Katharina Naschenweng settled things near the end with a fine run and finish.
Austria carved out the first presentable chance of the match inside 10 minutes. After Kirsty McGuinness failed to make the most of a break at the other end, Julia Hickelsberger-Fueller carried the ball upfield impressively and slipped through Nicole Billa, who shot wide after an excellent recovery from Sarah McFadden.
It did not take long for Austria to take the lead after that. Sarah Puntigam’s low free kick was deflected into the path of Katharina Schiechtl and she was on hand to produce a deft touch past Jackie Burns.
The team in red continued to dominate proceedings, penning Northern Ireland back in their own half, but creating clear-cut opportunities proved challenging in the near 30-degree heat.
Northern Ireland nearly gifted their opponents a second goal just before break however, with Burns having to tip Barbara Dunst’s chip onto the bar after she had been dispossessed during an attempt to play out from the back.
The interval seemed to take the spring out of Austria’s step with Irene Fuhrmann making a double substitution in an attempt to kill the game off.
It took until just after the hour mark for the half’s first shot on goal, with Burns drawing gasps from the Green and White Army when she spilled Dunst’s effort. Thankfully it careered safely off her gloves and over the bar.
Not long after Northern Ireland began to threaten at the other end. First, Kirsty McGuinness put in a dangerous ball and from the resultant corner, Rachel Furness’ looping header settled on the top of the net.
With the pressure ramping up Austria finally put the result beyond all doubt with two minutes of normal time remaining. Substitute Katharina Naschenweng was the hero, bursting into space and firing underneath Burns to make it 2-0.
Austria will now be watching tonight’s game between England and Norway closely as their hopes of qualifying from Group A hang in the balance.
Here are your player ratings…
GK: Manuela Zinsberger – 6/10 – Untroubled for the most part. Distribution was fine.
RB: Katharina Schiechtl – 7/10 – Arrived at just the right time to put her side ahead. Not caused many issues by McGuinness.
CB: Carina Wenninger – 6/10 – Good in the air and distributed through the lines with ease due to her opponents’ variable pressure.
CB: Viki Schnaderbeck – 6/10 – Enjoyed a leisurely shift before being taken off at half time.
LB: Verena Hanshaw – 6/10 – Did not push on as much as she might have done after a positive start. Made an important clearance in the second period.
DM: Sarah Puntigam – 7/10 – Showed her passing range early on and her free kick led to the opener.
RM: Julia Hicklesberger-Fueller – 6/10 – Carried the ball with real class at times. Faded after the interval and was hooked off.
CM: Sarah Zadrazil – 6/10 – Comfortable on the ball and often glided past players. Was not quite as influential as one might expect for a player of her quality.
CM: Marie Hobinger – 5/10 – Buzzed around providing support without being decisive. Subbed at the break.
LM: Barbara Dunst – 7/10 – Floated around in the final third causing Northern Ireland serious problems. Denied a lovely goal by Burns’ acrobatics and was her team’s creative spark.
ST: Nicola Billa – 5/10 – Probably should have scored early on. Chances were few and far between afterwards.
SUB: Laura Feiersinger (CM) – 5/10 – Could not pick the lock in the final third.
SUB: Marina Georgieva (CB) – 6/10 – They say never substitute your centre-back but her introduction did not disrupt her side too much.
SUB: Katharina Naschenweng (LM) – 7/10 – Came on and won her side the game. Not a bad shift.
SUB: Lisa Makas (ST) – N/A
GK: Jackie Burns – 6/10 – Dealt with Austria’s barrage of crosses fairly well for the most part. Produced a stunning stop to spare her own blushes in the first half. Might have saved the second goal if we’re being harsh.
RWB: Rebecca McKenna – 6/10 – Full of energy and forced her opposite number into a few mistakes. Remained disciplined out of possession.
CB: Julie Nelson – 7/10 – Chipped in with some important headers away. Never stopped battling, even when she picked up a knock early in the second half.
CB: Sarah McFadden – 8/10 – Made a stunning block early on which set the tone for a heroic display. She was everywhere, keeping Northern Ireland in the game.
CB: Rebecca Holloway – 7/10 – Covered exceptionally at times. Some of her passing was a bit suspect.
LWB: Demi Vance – 7/10 – Took up some promising offensive positions and was solid as a rock at the back.
CM: Rachel Furness – 5/10 – Deployed deeper than she was on Thursday with Kenny Shiels likely wanting her to get more of the ball. It did not really happen, but she showed flashes of quality.
CM: Chloe McCarron – 6/10 – Read the game pretty well and kept the ball moving. Did have a few clumsy moments but looks like a good player.
RF: Lauren Wade – 5/10 – Provided Northern Ireland’s best source of progression on the counter early on. Could not make the ball stick up front in the second.
ST: Marissa Callaghan – 6/10 – Dropped deep and interchanged with Furness. Held the ball up nicely on the rare occasions she received it.
LF: Kirsty McGuinness – 5/10 – Looked a little out of her depth, which is completely understandable. Did perk up a little in the second half, swinging in one excellent cross.
SUB: Abbie McGee (RWB) – 6/10
SUB: Joely Andrews (CM) – N/A
SUB: Emily Wilson (LF) – N/A
SUB: Louise McDaniel (CM) – N/A
SUB: Caitlin McGuinness (ST) – N/A