Substitute Ben Woodburn scored a fantastic goal on his debut to revive Wales’ hopes of qualifying for the World Cup 2018.
The first half was scrappy with Austria playing the better and coming the closest to opening the scoring. Marko Arnautovic skied the ball, when he was in a very good position. Marcel Sabitzer also gave Wayne Hennessey an easy save when in a very good position.
Wales did have a few efforts on goal, with Aaron Ramsey firing narrowly over. Wales were overrun in midfield, as Austria had an extra man in their midfield.
At half time, Chris Coleman made a change from 5-4-1 to 4-2-3-1 through bringing on Andy King for Jazz Richards. Wales needed something as this was a must-win game if I wanted to still have a chance of qualification for the World Cup.
Wales came out with more fight and motivation in the second half and looked like they wanted to win. Ramsey came close to scoring, having a shot blocked from close range. Gareth Bale, who had missed the last game in Serbia through suspension had a long-shot saved.
The referee was having a fairly poor game and after Ramsey had a shot saved, he gave a goal-kick, much to the despair of the Welsh players and fans. Nothing seemed to happen for the Welsh.
In the 69th minute, Coleman made another change, bringing on Woodburn and Hal Robson-Kanu for Tom Lawrence, whose first competitive start it was and Sam Vokes respectively. Both had worked extremely hard but nothing seemed to happen for them.
The moment of brilliance, which Wales so desperately needed, came in the 74th minute. Woodburn brought down a ball in the air with a brilliant touch, took another touch, before curling a delightful strike away from the keeper to spark the Welsh fans into madness in celebration.
A few minutes after the goal, Austria came really close to equalising, with Ashley Williams, who was immense in this game, blocking Arnautovic’s shot off the line.
Wales did hang on for the remainder of the game but, they could’ve extended their lead. Robson-Kanu fired over when he could’ve passed to Bale, who would’ve been one-on-one with the keeper. Bale had a over-head kick saved by the keeper. Robson-Kanu hit the post with a low shot.
Before this game, their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup next year in Russia were hanging on a thread after five draws in a row. But, after this win, coupled with Ireland drawing 1-1 at Georgia, means their hopes have been lifted.
With only the group winners getting automatic qualification, play-offs could be the main hope, with Wales four points off leaders Serbia and two points off second-placed Ireland.
Next up for Wales is a trip to Moldova on Tuesday, the 5 September. Ireland are playing Serbia, so at least one of those teams will drop points. We can still qualify.
Needing victory to maintain a realistic prospect of qualifying automatically, Wales were overrun by Austria in a goalless first half
With Serbia’s victory over Moldova strengthening their position at the top of Group D, Wales remain four points behind the leaders with three games left.
However, Chris Coleman’s side have narrowed the gap on the second-placed Republic of Ireland to two points following a draw for Martin O’Neill’s men in Georgia.
They travel to face the Moldovans on Tuesday – while Ireland host the Serbs – before a trip to Georgia and a potential decider with the Irish in Cardiff next month.
Only the nine group winners in Europe’s qualifying procedure automatically earn a place in next year’s tournament in Russia, while the eight best runners-up enter the play-offs.
And although Wales’ hopes of qualifying automatically remain out of their hands, the fact they still have any chance at all – and the manner in which Woodburn ensured that was the case – made for a delirious atmosphere in Cardiff.
Even before they appeared to be heading for a stalemate against Austria, Wales’ chances of qualifying were already hanging by a thread having drawn their five previous games.
Coleman had said they needed to win their remaining four fixtures to be in contention for automatic qualification and, knowing even a draw could be terminal
Whether Wales reach the finals in Russia or not, Coleman has said this World Cup campaign will be his last in charge of his country, though he claimed thoughts of his future had not entered his mind in the build-up to this vital fixture.