Ireland tops group after sinking Austria

James McClean of Ireland and Forian Klein of Austria battle for the ball during the FIFA World Cup 2018 Group D qualifying match at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna.
James McClean of Ireland and Forian Klein of Austria battle for the ball during the FIFA World Cup 2018 Group D qualifying match at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna. LISI NIESNER

FOOTBALL: Ireland has moved to the top of its World Cup qualifying group with an historic 1-0 win over Austria in Vienna.

James McClean struck the winner three minutes after the break to give the Irish a first win over the Austrians in 53 years and a first ever victory on Austrian soil.

It was also Austria's first defeat in four years in the Ernst Happel Stadium, leaving Marcel Koller's side with an uphill task now to make the finals in Russia.

Ireland moves to 10 points from a possible 12 in Group D, while Serbia advances to eight and Wales - which had a 1-1 draw in Cardiff - to six. Austria languishes on four points while Georgia is on two after being held 1-1 by visiting Moldova, which earned its first point.

"There are no world-class teams in this group, we will all take points off each other so to win in Austria is no easy feat. We are delighted,” McClean said.

Koller said his team failed to take two good scoring chances before half-time and were then punished on a counter-attack after the interval.

"We are not scoring. It's just small things,” he said.

"The important thing is we still have six games and there are 18 points available. It will be tight, we'll have to get even more together.”

Gareth Bale scored a 30th-minute goal for Wales against Serbia in Cardiff in a key Group D game, but Aleksandar Mitrovic levelled five minutes from time when his header went in off the post and Wayne Hennessey.

Spain scored two late goals in a 4-0 defeat of Macedonia in Granada while Italy netted four first-half goals as it cruised to a 4-0 win in Liechtenstein to stay neck and neck on 10 points each at the top of Group G, with Spain ahead on goal difference.

In Granada, an own goal from Macedonia's Darko Velkovski put 2010 world champions Spain on their way, then Vitolo, Nacho Monreal and Aritz Aduriz sealed the win with second-half goals.

Aduriz became the oldest man to score for Spain in an international. At 35 years and 275 days, the Athletic Bilbao striker was 50 days older than the previous record holder Jose Maria Pena, who set the mark in 1930 when scoring against Portugal.

Andrea Belotti bagged a brace for Italy with Ciro Immobile and Antonio Candreva also on target for the Azzurri in Liechtenstein.

Israel grabbed a 3-0 win over Albania, which had two players sent off, in a game moved from Shkoder to Elbasan following security fears, to stay in the running in the group.

Croatia tops Group I after a 2-0 win over Iceland, with Marcelo Brozovic opening after 15 minutes and scoring the second in stoppage time. Turkey defeated Kosovo 2-0 thanks to goals shortly after the break by Burak Yilmaz and Volkan Sen.

Topics:  world cup 2018

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