Gregoritsch spares Rangnick’s blushes
A late Michael Gregoritsch winner secured a vital three points for Ralf Rangnick’s Austria, coming from behind in the second half to secure back-to-back victories to open their campaign against a spirited Estonia.
Austria were without talismanic forward Marcel Sabitzer for this tie, out with a knee injury after scoring two and creating a further goal in a comfortable run out against Azerbaijan. Boss Rangnick, who may have been managing Sabitzer at club level if things had gone to plan at Manchester United found himself rueing his ill fate early on as penalty kick debutant Michael Gregoritsch crashed his spot kick against the bar, having being clumsily fouled following some intricate passing play by Vlasiy Sinyavskiy.
Seemingly undeterred by the scare, FIFA 109th ranked Estonia continued to play their own game and it was a dead ball situation that put them into a shock lead. Floated in from a deep position, it was two towering headers which saw the ball fall at the feet of Rauno Sappinen who made no mistake in lashing the ball beyond Heinz Lindner.
Rangnick showed no hesitation in making a double substitution at the break knowing choppier waters were ahead in terms of calibre of opposition, introducing David Alaba who now sits one shy of 100 caps for Das Team. It was however lesser known 21-year-old forward Junior Adamu’s introduction which almost provided the answer, sliding in Gregoritsch who skewed wide of the left post. On what was proving to be a frustrating evening for the SC Freiburg man, a more difficult chance flew past the other post moments later from distance.
Somewhat fortuitously, the home side found themselves level thanks to substitute Florian Kainz. Karl Hein was only able to parry a deflected Stefan Posch effort, allowing Kainz to pounce on the loose ball to tap home his first International goal in 23 attempts. The Sinisärgid were on the ropes late on and were eventually denied a point to match their tally in the previous qualification campaign, with Gregoritsch finally getting his deserved goal via a deflected strike.