Wales lose lead twice but emerge with point against Austria

SoccerBy Sunday World
Joe Allen celebrates his opener with Joe Ledley
Joe Allen celebrates his opener with Joe Ledley

Wales had a good night in Vienna as Chris Coleman's side claimed a battling World Cup qualification point with a 2-2 draw against Austria.

Joe Allen's superb strike and a Kevin Wimmer own goal twice gave Wales the lead, but they were pegged each time by Stoke forward Marko Arnautovic.

Allen had not scored for his country until his 32nd international appearance against Moldova last month.

But he made it two in as many games with a spectacular 22nd-minute volley after Chris Gunter had nodded the ball into his path.

Wimmer's unfortunate moment came on the stroke of half-time after goalkeeper Robert Almer had pushed James Chester's close-range effort into his path as he lay on the floor.

In between, Arnautovic struck with a smart header and then levelled three minutes after the re-start when Wales defence were guilty of some careless defending.

Austria's miserable Euro 2016 campaign had been in direct contrast to that of semi-finalists Wales.

But they were on a 10-game winning streak in European Championship and World Cup qualifiers and had not lost a competitive home fixture since Germany beat them in 2012.

So Wales were facing a sizeable task and Austria coach Marcel Koller had added some spice to the meeting between Group D's top two seeds by claiming Wales were "lucky" to reach the last four of Euro 2016.

Those comments had not gone down well with manager Chris Coleman, or the 4,000-plus fans who had made this Wales' biggest away following outside the summer's European Championship, since 2003.

In what was a crackling atmosphere at the Enst Happel Stadion, both sides almost scored within the opening seven minutes.

Wayne Hennessey was alert to keep out Wimmer's near-post header as Wales dozed at a David Alaba corner, while Gareth Bale almost claimed his 25th international goal within seconds.

Bale met Ben Davies' volley and, although the contact was not the cleanest with the ball hitting the Real Madrid forward's shoulder, Almer still had to produce an outstanding one-handed save over the crossbar.

Wales did well to slow the tempo but the game burst into life after 22 minutes when Bale surged down the left.

Sam Vokes missed his cross at the near post, but Gunter's good work allowed Allen to score with a left-footed volley which flew past Almer.

Austria were level within six minutes as Alaba's flighted ball allowed Arnautovic to score with a clever downward header as the ball bounced off the turf.

Hennessey had no chance with that imaginative finish, but the Crystal Palace goalkeeper was equal to Zlatko Junuzovic's near-post effort and a testing deflection following Florian Klein's strong run.

But Wales were back ahead on the stroke of half-time as Vokes flicked on Bale's long throw. Chester prodded goalwards and Almer saved only for the rebound to strike Wimmer and divert into his own own net.

Arnautovic equalised again three minutes after the re-start when he seized on Allen's misdirected pass and scampered through a huge hole in the Wales defence.

Austria had the better of the contest after that but Hennessey was only tested in the closing stages by substitute Alessandro Schopf.

Having lost the influential Allen to injury, there was a sense that a draw was a good result for Wales.

They briefly threatened when Bale beat two defenders to deliver a dangerous cross which Austria just about cleared, but Wales will be satisfied with a point which makes it four from two games.