Maguire's stunner keeps Scotland on course

Scotland Under-21s 2 Austria Under-21s 1
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The Independent Football

Scotland moved a significant step closer to next summer's European Championships when Chris Maguire fired them to victory at Pittodrie yesterday and into the qualification play-offs with a stunning 89th-minute winner.

Billy Stark's team needed victory yesterday to guarantee their progression from Group 10 and keep them on track for the finals in Denmark, but they went behind early on when the Werder Bremen forward Marko Arnautovic powered home a long-range strike.

Scotland could breathe a little easier when Barry Bannan equalised with a 29th-minute volley – even if Austria, and Arnautovic in particular, looked the more threatening side before Maguire struck.

Stark's team had put their passage to the play-offs in their own hands when they drew 1-1 in Belarus last Friday; Maguire again playing the role of hero as he put away the crucial penalty equaliser. His contribution this time means they go through to next month's two-legged play-offs – which determine the seven nations who join hosts Denmark in the finals – as Group 10 winners thanks to their head-to-head record.

The Scots lost 1-0 in Austria 12 months ago and they were behind again after 10 minutes. Arnautovic pounced on Danny Wilson's loose pass in central midfield and surged forward 10 yards before unleashing a vicious right-foot shot from 25 yards which skipped past Alan Martin and into the bottom corner of the net.

The Austria striker kept his effort low and out of the wind and was aided by a slick surface courtesy of relentless rain falling in Aberdeen.

Scotland had an opportunity to draw level soon after when captain Paul Caddis crossed for Maguire to turn and shoot, but goalkeeper Heinze Lindner was equal to the Aberdeen forward's effort.

Wilson then headed wide from the resulting corner before Fabian Koch flashed a shot off target at the other end. Dundee United's David Goodwillie, the one change made by Stark, shot wide from 20 yards before Caddis teed up Bannan's equaliser.

That came from a Caddis cross from the right-hand side which allowed the Aston Villa midfielder Bannan, inside the left edge of the penalty area, to control and power a left-foot volley across goal and into the top corner. Austria and Arnautovic remained dangerous throughout, frequently taking advantage of the way Scotland gave the ball away.

Martin was at full stretch to stop a 35-yard free-kick from the forward before Maguire scuffed another shot into the ground following a well-worked Scotland corner as the half ended level.

Lindner saved from Paul Coutts after some strong work from Bannan before Arnautovic fired over from distance.

James Forrest was introduced for Wotherspoon and almost immediately cut inside from the right flank, but his tame left-foot shot was easily held.

Arnautovic then had Martin beaten again, but the post saved Scotland on this occasion as the Bremen forward's curling shot hit the upright.

Lindner saved comfortably from Maguire as Scotland countered and Bannan then weaved his way into the Austria box but could not find the target with his left-footed chip.

Scott Arfield shot straight at the Austria goalkeeper before Martin got down low to his left to save another speculative effort from Arnautovic.

Austria forward Atdhe Nuhiu then spurned the best chance of the game. Martin's poor kick landed at the feet of Nuhiu, who laboured forward into a one-on-one situation, only for the Scotland goalkeeper to make amends for his underhit clearance.

Scotland continued to search for the winner and it came when Forrest laid the ball off for Maguire, who took a touch and fired a right-foot shot into the top corner from 20 yards.