VIENNA - Mario Gomez scored late in each
half as Germany, who knocked hosts Austria out of Euro 2008 in
Vienna, won 2-1 at the same stadium to virtually end their
neighbour's hopes of reaching next year's tournament.
Austria, who had a new lease of life after dismal defeats by
Belgium and Turkey earlier this year, did more than enough to
end a run of five successive defeats against their neighbours.
But all they had to show for their efforts was an Arne
Friedrich own goal early in the second half of an absorbing Euro
2012 Group A qualifier that was balanced on a kife edge.
There was a certain inevitability about the outcome as Gomez
took advantage of two defensive lapses, the second in the 90th
minute, to chalk up a sixth successive group win.
With 18 points from six games, Germany have almost clinched
a place in Poland and Ukraine but Austria stay fourth with seven
points, four adrift of Belgium, who have played a game more, and
three behind Turkey after they drew 1-1 in Brussels.
The Austrians need to finish second to have any chance of
qualifying through the play-offs but with only four matches left,
including one in Germany, that looks beyond them.
"We made lots of mistakes, we were a little bit lucky to win
the game today," Friedrich told ARD television. "It was an
important win although we did play as well as we could."
Coach Joachim Low said Germany, missing key midfielder
Bastian Schweinsteiger and talismanic striker Miroslav Klose
through injury, made too many mistakes.
"We were rather lucky," he agreed.
Austria and Germany used to be share one of Europe's
fiercest rivalries but recent matches have become embarrassingly
one-sided following the former's decline.
Austria have not beaten Germany in a competitive match since
their 3-2 win at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina and their last
victory in a friendly was 25 years ago. Recent results have
included 3-0, 3-1, 6-2, and 5-1 wins for the Germans.
When the two sides last met, at Euro 2008 which Austria
co-hosted with Switzerland, Michael Ballack's goal gave Germany
a 1-0 win which ended Austria's hopes on the only occasion they
have ever played at the European championship.
Gomez was among eight survivors from that game - four on
each side - while Austria's starting line-up included five
A lively start saw Martin Harnik head narrowly wide in the
fourth minute for Austria before the visitors replied by
creating a flurry of chances.
The best opportunity saw Gomez flick the ball wide of the
post after a quick-passing move sliced open the Austria defence
before Lukas Podolski rifled a left-foot shot against the
crossbar from 25 metres.
Gomez headed into the arms of Christian Graetzei from five
metres but after that Austria were the better side.
Erwin Hoffer had the hosts' best first-half chance, poking
the ball wide after a superb drag-back, but Germany went ahead
with their next attack when Gomez scored from close range as the
Austrians failed to clear a corner.
The home side were level five minutes after the restart when
Florian Klein found David Alaba free on the left with a raking
cross-field pass and the 18-year-old's low cross was turned into
his own goal by Friedrich.
Stefan Kulovits headed against the post in Austria's next
attack as they continued to pressure the visitors.
Austria left controversial striker Marko Arnautovic out of
the squad and flourished without him, putting the Germans under
constant pressure and showing plenty of inspiration.
Instead, in a cruel finale, it was Germany who won the game
as Gomez got in front of his marker to head in a Philippe Lahm
cross in the 90th minute for his 18th goal in 45 internationals.
"If we had taken a third of our chances, we could have
scored three goals," said Harnik.
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