VIENNA: A spot kick converted by Lyndon Dykes handed Scotland a crucial World Cup qualifying victory over Austria in Vienna which put their hopes of reaching Qatar next year back on track.
Elsewhere World Cup holders France beat Finland 2-0, a Memphis Depay hat-trick earned Netherlands a 6-1 win over Turkey and Portugal beat Azerbaijan 3-0.
Scotland striker Dykes scored a VAR-awarded penalty in the 29th minute – his second goal in two games after his winner against Moldova at the weekend – and Steve Clarke’s side had to withstand a night of pressure in the qualifier to move into second spot in Group F with 11 points.
With runaway leaders Denmark on their way to automatic qualification with 18 points from 18, Scotland host Israel, one point behind them, at Hampden Park next month and a win could go a long way to clinch second spot and a play-off place.
Austria, still reeling from a 5-2 defeat away to Israel, were straight on to the front foot asking questions of the Scotland defence.
In the sixth minute striker Marko Arnautovic came close with a shot from the edge of the box.
The Scots responded and Dykes’ close-range header from a delightful John McGinn cross was beaten away to safety by Austria goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann.
The match sped from end to end and in the 16th minute Austria’s Christoph Baumgartner made himself a yard of space at the edge of the box and curled a shot just past Craig Gordon’s left-hand post.
Referee Georgi Kabakov spoke to Dykes about a robust challenge on Bachmann but no card was produced, although Adams did get one for tangling with Florian Grillitsch.
However, when the Southampton striker was grabbed inside the box by already-booked Martin Hinteregger, referee Kabakov checked VAR and pointed to the spot.
Dykes stepped up and blasted the penalty under the diving Bachmann and the pendulum swung towards the visitors, although they had to stand firm under pressure before the interval, breathing a sigh of relief when a shot from Konrad Laimer went just wide.
The home side continued their pressure after the break. The classy David Alaba sent in a series of crosses and passes from the left but Austria could not take advantage.
Scotland offered little threat but in the 67th minute Adams sent O’Donnell racing through on goal, though his shot under pressure from Alaba was saved by Bachmann, moments before John McGinn curled a shot over the bar.
Late call-up Paul McGinn replaced the tiring O’Donnell and joined his brother John McGinn in the fray.
But the Scotland defending was often desperate and in the 78th minute a brilliant Gordon save from Baumgartner following an Alaba corner kept the lead intact.
Baumgartner had the ball in the net in added time but was well offside, with Scotland holding on for a statement win and taking the quest for Qatar to Hampden.
Irish snatch late point
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was both hero and villain for Serbia as the Republic of Ireland struck late once again to snatch a World Cup qualifying draw.
On a night when the visitors, marshalled by the brilliant Dusan Tadic, were quicker in thought and deed for long periods, Milinkovic-Savic, who had earlier headed his side in front, thumped an attempted 86th-minute clearance straight at team-mate Nikola Milenkovic and saw it end up in the back of his own net to ensure the game ended 1-1.
Ireland’s qualification hopes, which were hanging by a thread before kick-off, look no more realistic with Group A leaders Portugal 11 points better off and Serbia nine clear with just three games to play – but for manager Stephen Kenny, there was at least a measure of respite after Saturday’s disappointing home draw with Azerbaijan.
His critics are unlikely to be pacified by a performance which relied heavily on the traditional Irish qualities of hard work and commitment, but the heroics of 19-year-old keeper Gavin Bazunu, who spoiled Aleksandar Mitrovic’s record of scoring in every qualifier to date with a string of fine saves, and an impressive full debut by fellow teenager Andrew Omobamidele were significant pluses.
Kenny has now taken charge of 12 competitive fixtures without a victory and the Republic have not collected three points in 16 attempts in total dating back to June 2019.
Opposite number Dragan Stojkovic signalled his intent from the moment he submitted a teamsheet which featured Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic in a frontline supported by Tadic and wide men Filip Kostic and Filip Djuricic.
They forced two early corners and were almost gifted the opening goal within the first five minutes by Shane Duffy’s miscontrol, although Bazunu came to his captain’s rescue by blocking Vlahovic’s attempt.
Bazunu had to field Nemanja Gudelj’s 14th-minute strike from distance after Duffy had cleared the latest of a series of high balls, but the keeper was tested further by the same man moments later after the midfielder had been allowed time and space to work his way into position.
The visitors took the lead with 20 minutes gone when Milinkovic-Savic got across his marker at the near post to glance Tadic’s driven corner past Bazunu despite the keeper getting a hand to the ball.
Rajkovic was relieved to claim Jeff Hendrick’s 26th-minute free-kick with the minimum of fuss after Jamie McGrath’s progress had been halted illegally by Djuricic. Adam Idah was cautioned, perhaps harshly, for a high boot as he tried to beat defender Strahinja Pavlovic to James McClean’s teasing cross as Ireland responded.
Bazunu did well to beat away Mitrovic’s 39th-minute strike from Vlahovic’s adept lay-off and then dealt with the resulting corner, but Serbia’s movement and intricate passing game was repeatedly exposing holes in the home defence.
Having left lone striker Idah painfully unsupported for much of the first half, Ireland attempted to remedy that in the early stages of the second, although Alan Browne was unable to direct McClean’s 49th-minute cross at goal amid an encouraging start.
However, Bazunu had to repel Mitrovic’s 57th-minute effort after Tadic and Djuricic had combined delightfully and then pull off an even better stop three minutes later to deny the Fulham striker when he had connected with Kostic’s cross.
The teenager came to the rescue once again with a double save from substitute Nemanja Radonjic and another from Kostic, having needed McClean’s help after losing his bearings 13 minutes from time with the game opening up, and his heroics were rewarded at the death.
In his efforts to clear substitute Callum Robinson’s cross, Milinkovic-Savic blasted the ball at Milenkovic and looked on in horror as the ball ricocheted into his own net to spark a late onslaught which ultimately failed to produce a winner.