Scotland maintain unbeaten run - but final whistle comes just in time away at Austria

On the night Scotland had hoped would see them involved in a World Cup play-off final, they could ultimately feel relieved to leave Vienna with their unbeaten run stretched to eight games.

John McGinn scores Scotland's second goal against Austria in Vienna as he fires a shot beyond Daniel Bachmann. (Photo by Christian Hofer/Getty Images)
John McGinn scores Scotland's second goal against Austria in Vienna as he fires a shot beyond Daniel Bachmann. (Photo by Christian Hofer/Getty Images)

Steve Clarke would feel an element of frustration at his team’s failure to hold onto a 2-0 lead provided by goals from Jack Hendry and John McGinn but there was little doubt that Austria at least deserved the share of the spoils provided by substitutes Michael Gregoritsch and Alessandro Schopf.

But for Craig Gordon, who produced several top class saves, the home side would have claimed a victory which they could scarcely have been grudged on the overall balance of play.

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Scotland found themselves stretched and exposed too often for comfort in defence, an aspect of their play which will certainly need to be addressed ahead of whenever the World Cup play-off semi-final against Ukraine can be played.

Jack Hendry (second left) celebrates with his team-mates after opening the scoring for Scotland in the 2-2 draw against Austria. (Photo by Christian Hofer/Getty Images)

On the back of their team’s own play-off semi-final defeat in Wales last Thursday, there was understandably little appetite among the Austrian public for this contest.

There were only 6,600 spectators inside the cavernous 50,000-capacity Ernst Happel Stadium for outgoing home coach Franco Foda’s farewell match.

But despite the crushing sense of disappointment they must have shared in the aftermath of their World Cup hopes being extinguished, the Austrian players deserved credit for their approach to an entertaining match which ebbed and flowed at a pleasing tempo.

With Scotland also bringing the same intensity as they had displayed in the 1-1 draw against Poland at Hampden five nights earlier, it retained all the hallmarks of a competitive fixture.

John McGinn battles for possession with Martin Hinteregger during Scotland's friendly international against Austria in Vienna. (Photo by Christian Hofer/Getty Images)

The visitors, backed by around 1500 travelling fans who made most of the noise on the night, set the tone in the third minute with a sharp move down the right involving Nathan Patterson and Stuart Armstrong – the latter’s cross picked out McGinn who drove a firm shot straight at Daniel Bachmann.

It was Gordon who was the busier of the two goalkeepers, however. On the occasion which saw him climb into the top 10 of Scotland’s all-time caps list as he made his 66th appearance for his country, the Hearts veteran produced three excellent saves in the opening quarter of the match.

He stuck out a strong left hand to keep out Sasa Kalajdzic’s close range header, kept out a close range shot from the Stuttgart striker with his feet and then defied Marko Arnautovic from point blank range.

While the Austrians could consider themselves unfortunate not to have forged an early lead, Scotland carried plenty of threat themselves with McGinn wastefully dragging a shot wide after good link-up play with Armstrong in those opening exchanges.

Che Adams once again led the line intelligently and selflessly for Scotland and was instrumental in his team making the breakthrough in the 28th minute.

Finding space on the right to run onto a clever through ball from Andy Robertson which put the Austrian defence in trouble, Adams wriggled his way into the penalty area and saw a shot deflected just wide off Aleksandar Dragovic.

McGinn took the resulting corner from the right and found Grant Hanley at the far post. His header hit the crossbar and dropped for Hendry to outmuscle Christoph Baumgartner and force the ball home from a yard out.

As menacing as they looked going forward, Scotland continued to show signs of vulnerability at the back which Kalajdzic should have punished before the break when he sliced a shot wide after Kieran Tierney’s clearance had fallen invitingly for him.

The Scots continued to ride their luck at the start of the second half with Baumgartner scorning a good chance to equalise as Austria’s levels of motivation remained high.

But the hosts were rocked when Scotland doubled their lead with a magnificently worked and ruthlessly finished goal in the 56th minute.

The build-up play down the left involving Robertson, Armstrong and Tierney was of the highest quality and had the Austrian defence on their heels. When Tierney cut the ball back from the goal line, McGinn thumped a left foot shot high beyond Bachmann to claim his 12th goal for his country.

Clarke made a triple substitution soon afterwards - Aaron Hickey earning his second cap as he replaced Robertson, Stephen O’Donnell taking over from Patterson and Scott McTominay entering the fray as Ryan Jack made way after a solid contribution in what was his first Scotland start in 16 months.

Austria might have been excused for a collective acceptance this simply wasn’t going to be their night at this stage but they continued to press and were finally rewarded in the 75th minute.

Andreas Ulmer was given too much time and space on the left to whip over a cross and Michael Gregoritsch, who had just come on for Kalajdzic, took full advantage of Hanley’s poor positioning to guide a header beyond Gordon.

Infused with fresh belief, Austria equalised seven minutes later. It was another substitute, Alessandro Schopf, who pounced on more hesitant defending from Scotland to steer a shot past the unsighted Gordon from the edge of the penalty area.

The Austrians poured forward in search of a winner but Gordon came to Scotland’s rescue again with six minutes remaining when he made yet another crucial save to deny Andreas Weimann what looked a certain goal.

Scotland were certainly the more relieved of the teams to hear the final whistle.

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