Austria Leave It Late To See Off North Macedonia For First Euro Win

Lates strikes from Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautovic finally got Das Team over the line
18:58, 13 Jun 2021

Austria left it late to register their first win at a major tournament in 31 years as Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautović sealed a historic 3-1 win against North Macedonia at Bucharest’s National Arena.

The Macedonians, ranked at a tournament low of number 62 in the world, played their part in a thrilling encounter, and almost sprung an upset thanks to Goran Pandev’s first-half equaliser.

His goal turned out to be nothing more than a consolation, but it is a moment that will live long in the memory of the 5,000 Macedonian fans who made the trip.

The only group game that features two landlocked nations looked set to go according to the script when Stefan Lainer’s touch of brilliance saw him acrobatically turn Marcel Sabitzer's drilled cross into the far corner, sending Austria into an expected lead inside 20 minutes.

The lead was short-lived as veteran Pandev, who was born the same year that the Dyson was invented, reacted first to hoover up after a catalogue of defensive errors to pull North Macedonia level.

Aged 37 years and 321 days, Pandev became the second-oldest player ever to score at a European Championship when he pounced on a mix-up between the Austrian defence and goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann to poke home a goal that wouldn’t have looked out of place with some Benny Hill music playing in the background.

Ready to feel old? The Genoa striker made his international debut two years before England star Jude Bellingham was born, and six months before the first Harry Potter film premiered in cinemas.

PANDEV NETTED HIS NATION'S FIRST GOAL AT A MAJOR TOURNAMENT
PANDEV NETTED HIS NATION'S FIRST GOAL AT A MAJOR TOURNAMENT

His moment of magic was cruelly cancelled out with a little over 10 minutes left on the clock as Michael Gregoritsch met a David Alaba cross to put the Austrians back in the lead.

With North Macedonia pushing for a late equaliser, former West Ham man Marko Arnautović rounded the keeper in the last minute of normal time to seal his nation’s first win at a major tournament since a 2-1 victory over USA in the 1990 World Cup.

Arnautović scored six goals and made one assist in qualifying, and looked determined to prove a point after being left out of the starting line-up.

It was a hugely important win for Austria, their first ever in the Euros, as they needed three points in Bucharest ahead of testing meetings with the Netherlands and Ukraine.

Failure to register a first win in a major tournament in 31 years would have left Franco Foda with an awful lot to do to qualify from Group C.

They made hard work of it, but Austria have put themselves in a strong position, especially considering that the four best third-place nations will reach the knockout stages.

As for North Macedonia, they will take pride in their performance, and if they show the same grit and determination in their remaining group games, they will provide a stern test for the two group favourites.

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