Austria 2-2 Wales: Chris Coleman’s side stay top of group

Joe Allen, right, is congratulated by Joe Ledley after scoring the opening goal for Wales against Austria. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Joe Allen, right, is congratulated by Joe Ledley after scoring the opening goal for Wales against Austria. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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Wales claimed a battling World Cup qualification point with a 2-2 draw against 
Austria in Vienna to remain top of Group D.

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 keeper 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.

With 4,000-plus fans making it Wales’ biggest away following outside the summer’s European Championship, since 2003, it was a crackling atmosphere at the Ernst Happel Stadion and 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.

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 Chris Coleman’s side 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.

Having lost the influential Allen to injury, there was a sense that a draw was a good result for Wales and they will be satisfied with a point which makes it four from two games.