Strong performance from Wales as Austria qualify
A draw proved to be sufficient for Austria to book their place in the UEFA Women's EURO 2017 finals in the Netherlands next summer, but they were made to work hard for their share of the points against a spirited Wales side determined to bring their qualification campaign to a close on a high.
Wales 0-0 Austria
UEFA Women's EURO 2017 Qualifier
- Tuesday, 20 September 2016
- Rodney Parade, Newport
Jayne Ludlow made two changes to the starting line-up that defeated Israel 3-0 at Rodney Parade the week before as goalkeeper Laura O'Sullivan and defender Rhiannon Roberts were brought into the side, but it was the visitors that showed their attacking intentions from the start when Carina Wenninger directed her header against O'Sullivan's right-hand post after just three minutes.
It was an early scare for Wales, but the side quickly settled into the match and began to make things difficult for the physically stronger Austrians as they chased and pressured when not in possession. Kayleigh Green came close for Wales inside the opening 10 minutes, but her close-range effort was comfortably saved by Manuela Zinsberger.
There was a moment of controversy on 13 minutes when Austrian goalkeeper Zinsberger handled the ball outside the area when under pressure from Natasha Harding, and Greek referee Eleni Lampadariou punished the offence with a yellow card.
Zinsbereger was tested from the resulting free-kick by Jess Fishlock, but with Wales visibly lifted, it was Harding that came close to opening the scoring after 28 minutes but she failed to find the target from a ball fired across the area with one of the best of the few first-half chances.
Austria ended the opening half with the better possession, but failed to test O'Sullivan to a level that suggest they would claim the victory needed to ensure qualification.
Meanwhile, Wales would take plenty of positives into the break, with their tenacious tackling and spirited performance showing how just how far this team have progressed since the start of the qualifying campaign. However, while there were strong appeals for a penalty when Gemma Evans appeared to have fouled in the area before half-time, but a draw was a fair reflection on the opening 45 minutes.
Helen Ward had struggled to get the better of the Austrian defence in the first half, but forced Zinsberger into making a save on 54 minutes, and Ward was again at the centre of attention three minutes later when she was booked for a late tackle on Sophie Maierhofer in front of the opposition bench.
Tensions were clearly raised as visiting manager Dominik Thalhammer remonstrated with the officials, but a period of Austrian dominance followed as the side looked for the goal that would make their path to the finals that much easier.
However, Wales were determined not to disappoint the home crowd, and Angharad James sparked a period of pressure for Wales with a long-range effort on 64 minutes that went narrowly wide.
Jess Fishlock rounded-off an incredibly determined contribution in midfield with two chances that could have handed Wales the lead, as after forcing Zinsberger into making another save from a free-kick, Fishlock attempted an audacious effort from distance that would have crowned her performance.
Despite the lack of goals, there was no shortage of entertainment as both sides went in search of the advantage late in the game, but Wales survived a late scare with captain Sophie Ingle again displaying all her defensive qualities to deny the visitors from leaving with maximum points.
The final whistle brought with it a feeling of satisfaction for Wales from ending the campaign with a positive result, while the Austrian celebrations would last well into the night.
WALES: O'Sullivan (GK), Roberts, Evans, James, Ladd, Ingle (c), Harding, Lawrence, Green, Fishlock, Ward. Subs: Skinner (GK), Rowe, Estcourt, Fletcher, Thomas, Davies, Jenkins. Goals: None.
AUSTRIA: Zinsberger (GK), Maierhofer, Schiechtl, Wenninger, Zadrazil, Burger, Schnaderbeck (c), Billa, Puntigam, Feiersinger, Aschauer. Subs: Pal (GK), Naschenweng, Prohaska, Enzinger, Kirchberger, Dunst, Eder. Goals: None.
Referee: Eleni Lampadariou (Greece) Assistants: Chrysoula Kourompylia and Maria Kouparani (Greece) Fourth Official: Rebecca Thomas (Wales)