By Alejandro Gimenez
Vienna/Bucharest, Jun 13 (EFE).- The Austrian national soccer team on Sunday notched its first victory in a final phase of the Eurocup, downing North Macedonia 3-1 in their Group C opening match.
The North Macedonian team, headed by veteran Goran Padev, battled hard for a draw right until the final whistle in front of a large number of fans from their homeland.
Austria played a more defense game than usual at the National Stadium in Bucharest, Romania, before 10,000 fans and, right from the start, put the individual talent of its players on display, doing great damage to their rivals at midfield for which the North Macedonians could not muster much of a response.
Marcel Sabitzer and Stefan Lainer scored first for the Austrian squad on a rainy match day in Bucharest, with the former sending a great centering pass to the latter, who fired the ball into the net.
Then, North Macedonia’s Pandev stepped up, scoring the first goal for the team in the final phase of a Eurocup tourney just before the break.
Both teams came out after the intermission looking for the go-ahead tally, and the game took on a significant amount of urgency combined with muffed plays and flubbed driving chances at midfield.
But over time, Autria felt more and more confident, above all when Marko Arnautovic and Michael Gregoritsch came onto the pitch, providing considerably more depth to the team’s offensive game.
It was Gregoritsch who scored the Austrians’ second goal, which came 12 minutes before time after a magnificent centering pass from the left wing by David Alaba, a new signee with Spain’s Real Madrid.
Angelovski’s squad stepped on the gas, trying desperately for the 2-2 until the very last minute of play, but Arnautovic settled the matter just before the final whistle after racing in toward the North Macedonian goal.
Austria will next face off against The Netherlands in Amsterdam on Thursday, and North Macedonia will remain in Bucharest to try their luck against Ukraine.
Austria: Bachmann; Lainer, Dragovic (Lienhart, m.46), Hinteregger, Ulmer; Laimer (Baumgartlinger, m.93), Schlager (Ilsanker, m.94); Baumgartner (Gregoritsch, m. 58), Sabitzer, Alaba; and Kalajdzic (Arnautovic, m. 59).
Coach: Franco Foda North Macedonia: Dimitrievski; Alioski, Musliu (Ristovski, m.86), Velkovski, Ristovski, Nikolov (Bejtulaim m.63); Elmas, Ademi, Bardhi (Trickovski, m.82); Trajkovski (Kostadinov, m.63) and Pandev.
Coach: Igor Angelovski Referee Andreas Ekberg of Sweden yellow-carded Trajkovski (m.42) and Alioski (m.52) for North Macedonia and Lainer (m.85) for Austria.