Football / European Championship: Gillespie foils Austria: Both Republic and Northern Ireland press their European Championship claims

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Austria. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

Northern Ireland. . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

TWO superbly taken first- half goals, followed by a stirring second-half defensive display, earned Northern Ireland an unexpected but deserved victory in this European Championship qualifier here last night. They now join their southern neighbours and Portugal on six points at the top of Group Six.

A spectacular third-minute strike from Manchester United's Keith Gillespie gave the Irish a great start. Gary Fleming's throw from the right reached Iain Dowie, who hooked the ball over his shoulder for the 19-year-old winger, winning his second cap, to score with a fierce, dipping volley.

At the other end, Paul Kee - who had to take time off from his job as a coal delivery man to be here - was not called into action until the 20th minute, when he saved at the feet of Peter Stoger. Two minutes later, however, Kee could do nothing to prevent Austria's equaliser.

Stoger's run into the box was halted by Gerry Taggart's challenge. Contact was minimal, but the Spanish referee awarded the penalty and Toni Polster shuffled up to score from the spot.

Nine minutes from the interval, Jim Magilton's fine through-ball gave Phil Gray the chance to put his side ahead again with a neat, low shot to Franz Wohlfahrt's right. The Austrian goalkeeper prevented the visitors extending their lead with an acrobatic dive to keep out Magilton's curling free-kick.

The Austrians struggled to make an impact in the second half and their final ball too often went astray. Kee had little to do, apart from one save at his near post from Stoger, and a brave block from Polster in the last minute.

'We worked hard, to come here and win is a marvellous achievement,' a proud Bryan Hamilton said. His Austrian counterpart, a grim Herbert Prohaska, said: 'To lose to Germany or Russia is OK, it's expected, but to lose to Northern Ireland is very bitter.'

AUSTRIA (1-3-4-2): Wohlfahrt (Austria Memphis); Schottel (Rapid Vienna); J Kogler (Admira Wacker), Artner (Casino Salzburg), Werner-Klausriegler (Keli Linz); Stoger (Tirol Innsbruck), Prosenik (Austria Memphis), Hutter (Casino Salzburg), Feiersinger (Casino Salzburg); Polster (Cologne), Ogris (Austria Memphis). Substitutes: Pfeifenberger (Casino Salzburg) for Prosenik, 66; Hasenhuttl (Casino Salzburg) for Ogris, h-t.

NORTHERN IRELAND (4-4-2): Kee (Ards); Fleming (Barnsley), Taggart (Barnsley), McDonald (Queen's Park Rangers), Worthington (Leeds United); Lomas (Manchester City), Gillespie (Manchester United), Magilton (Southampton), Hughes (Strasbourg); Gray (Sunderland), Dowie (Southampton). Substitutes: Quinn (Reading) for Dowie, 73; O'Neill (Hibernian) for Gillespie, 56.

Referee: A Lopez Nieto (Spain).