Danny Coyne last night suffered a goalkeeping howler for Wales on a par with anything David James has inflicted on England, gifting Austria a late winning goal and an invaluable three points to keep their World Cup dream alive.
Coyne, the No 2 keeper at Burnley, should never have been troubled by Rene Aufhauser's 87th-minute shot. But it slipped, pathetically, through both his hands and legs. The injustice was that Wales had fought hard and played well in a match they had chances of winning.
"I'm disappointed with the result but pleased with the performance," said the Wales manager, John Toshack, whose main aim in the next year is to rebuild his team to become competitive for Euro 2008 qualifying. On Coyne's error, he added: "He was unfortunate. But better that it happens now than in 18 or 20 months' time.
"The England keeper David James did something very similar in this same stadium earlier in the campaign and it cost him his position in the team. But we don't do things like that, I certainly will not be leaving Danny out. We are not as harsh on people as that. It is difficult for him because he is not playing regular first-team football."
This game was never going to be the hottest ticket in town, given that Kylie Minogue was playing down the road. And even the sporting agenda in Vienna was still being dominated by the national ice hockey play-offs, which began on Tuesday, and in which the capital's representatives made a winning start. But the nation's footballers, by winning 2-0 in Cardiff on Saturday, had reignited belief that they could still qualify for Germany. So much so that Hans Krankl, their coach, said that he expected "total success" against Wales.
Krankl and Toshack had locked horns before in this city, as players, back in September 1974, when Austria beat Wales 2-1 in European Championship qualifying. "Following a sortie into the Welsh penalty area I shot the winning goal," recalled Krankl, writing in last night's programme. "Toshack tried to help out at the back, he was huge, beefy. But I was faster and toe-poked the ball into the net."
Craig Bellamy might have been better advised trying a toe-poke in the third minute last night when one-on-one with Helge Payer in the home goal. Instead, he shot into the keeper's legs. A quick counter-attack ended with Andreas Ivanschitz blasting a left-foot shot high over the bar.
Wales's back five held a ramrod straight line under pressure but the wide players, Mark Delaney and Sam Ricketts, were quick to push forward when possible, giving the visitors a one-man advantage in midfield at times.
This led to them dominating the opening portion of the match, with Bellamy and Ryan Giggs, both on nippy form, the main benefactors. Fed by Giggs, Bellamy scored what appeared to be a perfectly good goal in the ninth minute but the referee had already blown his whistle, harshly adjudging a barge by Bellamy on Ernst Dospel. If Wales could take any consolation, it was that the referee had turned down a reasonable penalty call for handball by Ricketts a few minutes earlier.
Giggs continued to trouble the Austrian defence, his jinking runs down the left ending in decent crosses more often than not. Bellamy was also the provider for a Giggs chance, but again Payer closed down a Welsh attacker to thwart him.
When Austria finally started firing on more cylinders, late in the first half, Wales responded by trying to match their hosts' physical approach. This led to several Austrian free-kicks in dangerous areas, the best of which arose after Danny Gabbidon brought down Martin Stranzl. Ivanschitz smashed a sweet left-foot curler towards the top corner of the Wales goal but Coyne had it covered.
His counterpart, Payer, made a more dramatic intervention after the break to save at close range to deny Giggs.
Krankl then introduced his veteran striker Ivica Vastic. The 35-year-old scored as a substitute last weekend and had two half-chances within minutes of appearing last night. A defensive error allowed a third opportunity on 70 minutes but the shot went wide, unlike a 76th-minute blast that hit the post. Aufhauser fared better, albeit with Welsh help.
AUSTRIA (4-4-2): Payer (Rapid Vienna); Dospel (Austria Magna), Ehmann (Graz AK), Stranzl (Stuttgart), Katzer (Rapid Vienna); Kirchler (Pasching), Kuhbauer (SV Mattersburg), Aufhauser (Graz AK), Ivanschitz (Rapid Vienna); Haas (JEF United), Mayrleb (Superfund). Substitutes: Kiesenebner (Austria Magna) for Dospel, 84; Vastic (Austria Magna) for Haas, 55; Mair (Wacker Tirol) for Kirchler, 77.
WALES (5-3-2): Coyne (Burnley); Delaney (Aston Villa), Collins (Cardiff), Gabbidon (Cardiff), Partridge (Motherwell), Ricketts (Swansea); Robinson (Sunderland), Davies (Tottenham), Fletcher (West Ham); Bellamy (Celtic), Giggs (Manchester Utd). Substitute: Page (Coventry) for Collins, 58.
Referee: M Gonzalez (Spain)Reuse content