UEFA Nations League - Group B1
AustriaAustria2Northern IrelandNorthern Ireland1

Nations League: Northern Ireland's poor run continues as Austria win with two late goals

By Mark SterlingBBC Sport NI
Stuart Dallas
Stuart Dallas captained Northern Ireland on his 51st cap

Northern Ireland's poor run of results continued as two late goals saw them suffer an unlucky 2-1 defeat away to Austria in the Nations League.

Substitute Josh Magennis gave a much-changed NI the lead as they looked to bounce back from Thursday's crushing Euro play-off final loss to Slovakia.

However, goals from Louis Schaub, which looked offside, and Adrian Grbic saw off NI despite a solid display.

Ian Baraclough's men remain in danger of being relegated from League B.

The defeat means they have just one point from five matches in this campaign and they remain bottom of Group B1, three points behind third-placed Romania.

Northern Ireland host the Romanians in the final group match at Windsor Park on Wednesday night, but even a victory in Belfast may not be enough for them to avoid the drop.

Liam Boyce
Liam Boyce had an early chance for Northern Ireland but fired wide

Sunday's other game in the group, between Romania and Norway, was postponed because of a positive Covid-19 case in the Norwegian camp. Uefa has yet to decide how to allocate points for the game, but three points for Romania would mean Northern Ireland cannot match their points tally.

Magennis's opener came from good build-up play and, as Paddy McNair played the striker in, the home defence appealed for offside as the Hull City man swept home a composed finish.

Schaub's equaliser came from a right-wing cross but he appeared to be offside as he placed a low finish on the turn past Michael McGovern, who had replaced Bailey Peacock-Farrell in goal for the visitors.

The winner came three minutes from time as Austria substitute Marko Arnautovic's pass played in Grbic and he was able to find the bottom corner to send his team top of the group table.

Having lost all four Nations League outings in the inaugural year of the competition under Michael O'Neill, Northern Ireland now have just one point from nine Nations League matches.

More worryingly for Baraclough, whose side beat Bosnia on penalties in the Euro play-off semi-final in October, they have failed to win during 90 minutes of any of his seven matches in charge since taking over from O'Neill.

Different shape suits much-changed NI

Josh Magennis
Magennis struck for his eighth Northern Ireland goal

Baraclough made eight changes to the starting line-up that lost to Slovakia on Thursday, with stand-in captain Stuart Dallas, midfielder Paddy McNair and striker Conor Washington the only three players retained.

With St Johnstone midfielder Ali McCann making his debut, Baraclough also changed the shape from 4-3-3 to 3-5-2, with Liam Boyce partnering Washington up front and Michael Smith deployed in an unfamiliar holding midfield role.

Despite the changes, or perhaps because of them, the team looked comfortable with the set-up and started the match in energetic fashion.

Having a strike partnership, as Northern Ireland did away to Norway in October, gave Baraclough's side more of an attacking threat and it almost helped give them the lead in the seventh minute.

Boyce latched on to a deflected through ball and went through on goal but, with Washington in space inside and looking for a pass, the Hearts man tried a shot which he dragged just wide.

Despite that, they both produced encouraging displays until substituted just after the hour mark for Gavin Whyte and goalscorer Magennis, with Whyte playing a part in the build-up to his strike partner's goal.

Back three stand firm until late goals

While the strike partnership worked well at one end of the pitch, going with a back three instead of a back four also gave Northern Ireland a solid look at the other.

It is by no means a shape the squad is unfamiliar with, but Conor McLaughlin will not have started alongside Daniel Ballard and Tom Flanagan before.

Ali McCann
Ali McCann produced an energetic and composed Northern Ireland debut

After individual errors led to Slovakia's two goals in Belfast on Thursday, Northern Ireland did not look likely to concede in Vienna, and indeed looked set for a much-needed victory when Magennis scored.

They could not be blamed for Austria's equaliser, but Arnautovic added a new dimension to the hosts' attack and Craig Cathcart, who had come on as a substitute, failed to track Grbic as he ran on to Arnautovic's pass to slide in the winner.

NI in need of morale boost

The scoreline was harsh on a Northern Ireland team who responded positively to the huge disappointment they will have been feeling after missing out on reaching back-to-back Euro finals.

While the threat of relegation from the second tier of the Nations League could now be likely, irrespective of the outcome of Wednesday's visit of Romania, it is important for the morale of players, managers and supporters that Baraclough's side get a positive result.

Only a win will give them a chance of avoiding relegation, but the formbook does not make for impressive reading and any manager that goes seven games without a win in open play is bound to be concerned.

There is no doubting the hard work and commitment his players are showing, and there were elements of misfortune in both defeats this week, but statistics can quickly mount and the squad will be desperate to finish their 2020 fixtures with a victory.

Line-ups

Austria

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 12Pervan
  • 21Lainer
  • 3DragovicBooked at 10minsSubstituted forRanftlat 45'minutes
  • 4Hinteregger
  • 2UlmerSubstituted forGrbicat 78'minutes
  • 14BaumgartlingerSubstituted forSchaubat 78'minutes
  • 6Ilsanker
  • 23Schlager
  • 9SabitzerBooked at 90mins
  • 8Alaba
  • 11GregoritschSubstituted forArnautovicat 63'minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Schlager
  • 5Trauner
  • 7Arnautovic
  • 10Schaub
  • 13Stankovic
  • 15Ranftl
  • 16Grbic
  • 17Holzhauser
  • 18Zulj
  • 19Kalajdzic
  • 20Onisiwo
  • 22Wiesinger

Northern Ireland

Formation 3-5-2

  • 1McGovernBooked at 79mins
  • 22BallardSubstituted forCathcartat 83'minutes
  • 2McLaughlin
  • 4Flanagan
  • 14Dallas
  • 17McNair
  • 19Smith
  • 13McCannSubstituted forDavisat 83'minutes
  • 11FergusonSubstituted forLewisat 36'minutes
  • 16WashingtonSubstituted forMagennisat 62'minutes
  • 9BoyceBooked at 25minsSubstituted forWhyteat 62'minutes

Substitutes

  • 3Lewis
  • 5Evans
  • 6Galbraith
  • 8Davis
  • 12Peacock-Farrell
  • 15McLaughlin
  • 18Whyte
  • 20Cathcart
  • 21Magennis
  • 23Hazard
Referee:
Maurizio Mariani

Match Stats

Home TeamAustriaAway TeamNorthern Ireland
Possession
Home71%
Away29%
Shots
Home10
Away5
Shots on Target
Home3
Away2
Corners
Home11
Away1
Fouls
Home15
Away9

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Austria 2, Northern Ireland 1.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Austria 2, Northern Ireland 1.

  3. Booking

    Marcel Sabitzer (Austria) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  4. Post update

    Foul by Marcel Sabitzer (Austria).

  5. Post update

    Josh Magennis (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  6. Post update

    Reinhold Ranftl (Austria) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  7. Post update

    Foul by Michael Smith (Northern Ireland).

  8. Post update

    Attempt missed. Josh Magennis (Northern Ireland) right footed shot from outside the box is too high.

  9. Post update

    Martin Hinteregger (Austria) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  10. Post update

    Foul by Josh Magennis (Northern Ireland).

  11. Goal!

    Goal! Austria 2, Northern Ireland 1. Adrian Grbic (Austria) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Marko Arnautovic with a through ball.

  12. Post update

    Martin Hinteregger (Austria) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  13. Post update

    Foul by Josh Magennis (Northern Ireland).

  14. Substitution

    Substitution, Northern Ireland. Steven Davis replaces Alistair McCann.

  15. Substitution

    Substitution, Northern Ireland. Craig Cathcart replaces Danny Ballard.

  16. Post update

    Attempt missed. Marko Arnautovic (Austria) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Xaver Schlager.

  17. Goal!

    Goal! Austria 1, Northern Ireland 1. Louis Schaub (Austria) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Adrian Grbic.

  18. Booking

    Michael McGovern (Northern Ireland) is shown the yellow card.

  19. Substitution

    Substitution, Austria. Adrian Grbic replaces Andreas Ulmer.

  20. Substitution

    Substitution, Austria. Louis Schaub replaces Julian Baumgartlinger.

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