Elliott's late leap salvages Northern Ireland pride

Northern Ireland 3 Austria 3
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The Independent Online

Stuart Elliott secured a point for Northern Ireland with a dramatic equaliser deep in stoppage time to give the home side a 3-3 draw with Austria in their Group Six World Cup qualifier here last night.

Stuart Elliott secured a point for Northern Ireland with a dramatic equaliser deep in stoppage time to give the home side a 3-3 draw with Austria in their Group Six World Cup qualifier here last night.

The Hull City striker came off the bench to make his mark after Austria looked assured of a victory. Instead the Northern Ireland team came off to cheers from the home crowd with Colin Murdock and David Healy also on target.

Austria had looked in control when Markus Schobb struck for the second time on the 72nd minute to give the visitors a 3-2 lead after Christian Mayrleb had put the sides level 11 minutes earlier. Murdock scored his first goal for his country on his 25th international appearance in the 60th minute to put the home side 2-1 ahead. He got on the end of Damien Johnson's corner to head past Alex Manninger after some appalling marking by Austria.

However, Northern Ireland's euphoria lasted only 60 seconds with Mayrleb squeezing a shot inside Roy Carroll's near post. Tempers became frayed and Schopp appeared to head-butt James Quinn. Then Murdock became involved and lashed out at the Austria captain.

Northern Ireland were looking for their first home victory in three years and the crowd were in expectant mood at the start of the second half.

There was certainly a buzz around the old ground as the team went in search of a rare win. Quinn was looking lively and almost got away from Ferdinand Feldhofer only for the Austrian to make a timely block.

The Austrians were looking in a little bit of disarray after a superb strike from Healy in the 36th minute put the sides level after Schopp had struck first for the visitors after 14 minutes. Austria hit back on the counter and Mayrleb got into a good position but failed to pick out Schopp and the home fans breathed a sigh of relief.

Manninger made another superb save to turn away a clever free-kick from Healy from 25 yards.

Austria continued to look dangerous on the counter-attack and the absence of Martin Stranzl, who pulled a thigh muscle in the warm-up and was replaced by Feldhofer, did not seem to affect them at all. Northern Ireland were beginning to get frustrated and Tommy Doherty was booked in the 33rd minute for a challenge on Vastic.

England top the group on 10 points. Austria have five and the Northern Irish three.

NORTHERN IRELAND (4-4-2): Carroll (Manchester United), A Hughes (Newcastle United, capt), Williams (Milton Keynes), Murdock (Hibernian; Elliott (Hull City),78) Jones (Crewe) 78), Gillespie (Leicester City), Whitley (Sunderland) ( McVeigh (Norwich City) 89, Johnson (Birmingham City), Doherty (Bristol City), Jones (Crewe) 86, McCartney (Sunderland), Healy (Preston), Quinn (Willem II). Substitues not used: Taylor (Birmingham City), Craigan (Motherwell), Griffin (Stockport), Smith (Preston).

AUSTRIA: (4-4-2): Manninger (Siena), Ibertsberger (Salzburg), Feldhofer (Rapid Wien), Hiden (Rapid Vienna), Pogatetz (Graz AK), Kiesenebner (Austria Vienna), Schopp (Brescia) Sick (Liebherr) 83), Kühbauer (Mattersburg), Mayrleb (Austria Wien, capt) Kollmann (Liebherr, 81), Kirchler (FC Superfund), Vastic (Austria Vienna). Substitues not used: Macho (Rapid Wien), Katzer (Rapid Wien), Dollinger (Liebherr).

Referee: M Shield (Australia).

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