Football: Chile chilled by fantastic Vastic

Chile 1 Salas 70 Austria 1 Vastic 90 Att: 30,392
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The Independent Online
CHILE JUST cannot break their World Cup hoodoo. Within seconds of recording their first victory in the World Cup for 36 years, their first out of their home country since 1950, they conceded an equaliser in injury time to an Austrian side long on determination, desperately short of quality. Austria are the last-gasp specialists. They have now scored twice in injury time, the first to draw against Cameroon in the opening game of Group B, the second earning an equally fortuitous point against the fancied Chilians.

At the final whistle, Nelson Acosta, the Chile coach, stalked off down the tunnel waving a farewell fist to his players, while the Austrians bowed to their fans and breathed a sigh of relief. Out of jail twice in a week. They should have been heading home by now; Chile should be contemplating a place in the second round. But they only have themselves to blame.

For long periods, they dominated the Austrians without managing to find the right final pass at the end of some intricate mid-field patchwork. Just as their army of followers were starting to turn restless, Marcelo Salas - who else? - put them ahead. It was not a goal to match his Wembley beauty but it looked to be equally decisive. Austria, ponderous and workmanlike, had not looked capable of penetrating the Chile defence.

This morning, when they pick up the crumbs of comfort, Chile will still fancy their chances of progressing. Having been deprived of a deserved victory over Italy by poor refereeing, one moment of slackness cost them dear yesterday. As Austria launched one desperate final fling, the substitute Ivica Vastic worked a little time and space on the edge of the penalty area and curled a right-foot shot round the leaping Nelson Tapia and into the far corner of the net. Three quarters of the ground fell silent; the Austrian quarter, morose for most of the second half, sprung to life. Tapia fell to earth and beat the ground in frustration with his forehead. Whether Chile's morale can recover from a second blow is open to question.

A muddled match had exposed their pretentions anyway. The Austrians had done their homework, man-marking both dangermen, Ivan Zamorano and Salas, and posting the combative Roman Mahlich in front of the back three to block Chile's midfield runs. On the left, the wing back, Francisco Rojas, so influential against Italy, was strangely subdued. Without his pace, Salas and Zamorano were forced to forage for themselves, thereby unbalancing the attack and overcrowding the midfield. Zamarano's gesture of disgust at his midfield on the stroke of half-time summed up the mood.

The stalemate suited the Austrians well, though the coach, Herbert Prohaska, signalled some aggressive intention by bringing on Andreas Herzog and Markus Schopp at half-time. Indeed, Austria could have taken the lead minutes into the second half had not Schopp's control let him down badly five yards from goal. It was a rare foray. Moments later, Moises Villaroel had a right-foot shot touched round the post by Michael Konsel, who also saved brilliantly from a right foot shot by Zamorano. But with 20 minutes left, Salas struck. Mahlich fouled Clarence Acuna on the byline, Jose Sierra swung in the free-kick, Zamorano leapt above the defence and though Konsel blocked the initial header Salas kneed the rebound fractionally over the line. The Chileans claimed the goal immediately amid muted Austrian protest.

CHILE (3-4-1-2): Tapia (Universita Catolica); Reyes (Colo Colo), Fuentes (Universidad de Chile), Margas (UniversidadCatolica); Villaroel (Wanderers), Acuna (Universidada de Chile), Parraguez (Universidada Catolica), Rojas (Universidada de Chile), Estay (Toluca), Zamorano (Internazionale), Salas (River Plate). Substitutes: Sierra (Colo Colo) for Estay, 57, Castaneda (Universidad Catolica) for Villaroel 66.

AUSTRIA (3-5-1-1): Konsel (Roma), Pfeffer (Austria Vienna), Schottel (Rapid Vienna), Feiersinger (Borussia Dortmund), Cerny (1860 Munich), Kuhbauer (Real Sociedad), Mahlich (Sturm Graz), Pfeifenberger (Werder Bremen), Wetl (Rapid Vienna); Haas (Sturm Graz); Polster (Koaln). Substitutes: Herzog (Bremen) for Kuhbauer 45; Schopp (Sturm Graz) for Cerny 45; Vastic (Sturm Graz) for Haas 73.

Referee: G Ghandour (Egypt).