Euro 2020: Ukraine 0-1 Austria: Baumgartner winner books Wembley date with Italy
Only goals scored separated the sides heading into Monday’s matchday three clash, but Austria had to win to leapfrog Ukraine and secure a top-two place along with the Netherlands.
Christoph Baumgartner’s first-half goal ensured they progressed from the group stage of a European Championship for the first time and their prize is a trip to Wembley to face the in-form Azzurri on Saturday.
Although Ukraine could yet join them in the knockout stage, Andriy Shevchenko’s men underwhelmed and might do well to advance as one of the four best third-placed teams with only three points and a negative goal difference.
Austria were on the front foot from the outset but created little of note until David Alaba delivered a dangerous corner into the centre of the box and Baumgartner toed his finish beyond Georgi Bushchan after 21 minutes.
Baumgartner had taken a blow to his head prior to scoring and eventually made way after going down again, but his team-mates continued to pose the greater threat and Marko Arnautovic should have done better than prod a tame effort wide three minutes before the break.
Ukraine’s best first-half chance saw Daniel Bachmann slightly fortunate as his parry from Mykola Shaparenko’s shot narrowly evaded Andriy Yarmolenko.
Shevchenko’s side showed scant improvement after the interval, yet Austria’s inability to add a second set up a nervy last 10 minutes.
Even then, Ukraine could not muster a second effort on target, their exciting play in the first two matches quickly forgotten as they failed to prey on their opponents’ evident nerves.
What does it mean? First-half flurry just about enough
In the first half, Austria had eight corners and 13 shots – second only to Italy’s 14 against Turkey through 45 minutes in the tournament. This attacking endeavour secured their first ever half-time lead at a European Championship.
It was still an extremely profligate performance, though, and Austria will surely be punished by Italy if they similarly fail to take their chances again.
Alaba always looks most likely
Having fulfilled a variety of roles for his country, Alaba settled back into the left-back position in which he established himself at Bayern Munich. Even from there, though, he was Austria’s chief creative force.
Four first-half key passes brought Alaba only one shy of Martin Harnik’s single-game Austria record at the Euros (five vs Croatia in 2008).
Arnautovic almost costs his country
While it might be a little harsh to criticise an Austria player after a vital victory, Arnautovic’s failure to effectively put the game beyond Ukraine could so easily have proven costly.
Returning to the side following suspension, Arnautovic had four shots but scarcely troubled Bushchan, who faced 18 attempts yet only four on target.
Austria know their travel plans, but Ukraine – already behind four-point Switzerland, third in Group A – must wait and see if they have another match or are instead heading home.
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