Ireland stung by Stoger's hat-trick

Football Austria 3 Republic of Ireland 1
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reports from Vienna

Austria 3 Republic of Ireland 1

The Irish seem to enjoy doing it the hard way. A repeat of the scoreline in Dublin last June sees Jack Charlton's team now needing wins against Latvia at home and Portugal away in the remaining two games to be sure of heading last night's opponents and joining Portugal as qualifiers for Group Six which saw yet another unexpected result in this fascinating group.

Jack Charlton flooded midfield with five players including Roy Keane and Andy Townsend, who both missed the 3-1 eclipse in June. But the blueprint became smudged.

Austria, who lost 3-1 to Latvia in Riga last month, had a fresh urgency in their stride. The pace was cup-tie tempo from the start, and in only three minutes they were a goal ahead. Anton Polster, the arch demon of Dublin with two goals, fed Dietmar Kuhbauer the kind of ball wingers adore. The cross was long and sharp and Peter Stoger's volley from fully 25 yards equally penetrating.

The Irish, as usual, called on resilience but an arresting first half again exposed the Republic's continuing need for a prolific striker. Their newcomer to the front line, Mark Kennedy, did his best to fill the gap in first-half injury time when his low driven free-kick was punched away by goalkeeper Michael Konsel. Paul McGrath was just unable to reach the ball before a defender.

Goalkeeper Konsel was having all the luck traditionally, but wrongly, regarded as an Irish preserve, and it turned out a disastrous second half for the Republic. Stoger scored his and his team's second in the 64th minute when he ran across the face of goal before beating Alan Kelly with a sharp shot.

Jack Charlton met the challenge by taking Ray Houghton out of midfield and flinging Tony Cascarino into attack alongside Niall Quinn.

There were several minor rewards before a major prize in the 70th minute when a shot by Cascarino forced a corner. Paul McGrath, Aston Villa's veteran defender, ran bravely into a jam-packed goal area and beat Konsel with a firm header.

Three minutes later it was all over with Stoger claiming a remarkable hat-trick. A cross by Polster from the right flew over the head of Alan Kernaghan and Stoger netted a fierce volley.

AUSTRIA (3-4-2-1): Konsel (Rapid Vienna); Furstaller (Casino Salzburg), Schottel (Rapid Vienna), Pfeffer (Austria Memphis); Schopp (Sturmn Graz), Kuhbauer (Rapid Vienna), Pfeifenberger (Casino Salzburg), Marasek (Rapid Vienna); Stoger (Rapid Vienna), Herzog (Bayern Munich); Polster (Cologne). Substitutes: Cerny (Tirol Innsbruck) for Polster, 78

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (4-5-1): A Kelly (Sheffield United); G Kelly (Leeds United), McGrath (Aston Villa), Kernaghan (Manchester City), Irwin (Manchester United); Houghton (Crystal Palace), Townsend (Aston Villa), Keane (Manchester United), Sheridan (Sheffield Wednesday), Kennedy (Liverpool); Quinn (Manchester City). Substitutes: Cascarino (Marseille) for Houghton, 67.

Referee: A Cakar (Turkey).