Scotland surrendered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Austria in an entertaining friendly at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion.
Visiting goalkeeper Craig Gordon kept the hosts at bay before Jack Hendry headed Steve Clarke’s side in the lead after 28 minutes after a corner kick from John McGinn, who had missed a few early chances.
The Aston Villa midfielder was right with another chance after 56 minutes, but Michael Gregoritsch pulled one back 20 minutes later and – eight minutes from time – with the nervous Scots rambling, his compatriot substitute Alessandro Schopf equalized, to let the visitors hang on for a draw.
After a 1-1 draw with Poland at Hampden Park last Thursday, Scotland have six wins and two draws in their last eight matches and can start looking forward to the World Cup play-off semi-final against Ukraine, scheduled for June, with Wales awaiting the winners of the final, although Clarke will know improvement is needed.
There was little appetite for the game in Austria after the hosts’ chances of reaching the 2022 World Cup final in Qatar were cut short by Wales in the play-off semi-final last week . Subsequently, Austrian coach Franco Foda announced that he would retire after the match.
As promised, Clarke used his squad with captain Andy Robertson, who missed the game against Poland due to Covid-19 concerns, back in the starting lineup with centre-back Hendry and midfielders Stuart Armstrong , Ryan Jack and Lewis Ferguson, the latter. make his first start.
Austrian keeper Daniel Bachmann played under Clarke at Kilmarnock, and he had some work to do at the start. McGinn had two efforts, first testing Bachmann with a third-minute drive, then slipping a shot past the far post from 12 yards out. However, Gordon made three terrific saves to keep the Scottish goal intact.
Hearts’ veteran number one blocked Sasa Kalajdzic’s close-range header from a corner, then used his foot to fend off a strike from the striker before parrying a powerful strike from Marko Arnautovic. Amidst it all, Scotland striker Che Adams had the ball in the net, but the offside flag was long up.
Scotland, however, took the lead, from their first corner, a delivery from McGinn at the far post. Visiting defender Grant Hanley powered his header against the crossbar, but the ball fell on Hendry, and he nodded gratefully over the line from one yard out.
The home side continued to threaten, however, and Scotland defender Kieran Tierney brushed aside the danger after Gordon let Arnautovic pass through his legs.
Scotland showed no signs of tightening up in the second half and the increasingly dominant hosts repeatedly threatened.
However, the Scots produced a classy moment when Robertson and Tierney combined down the left and, when the Arsenal defender’s back fell on McGinn, he fired the ball past Bachmann for the first time. Then came the string of substitutes expected to disrupt the game.
Austria kept going and got their rewards just as Gregoritsch came off the bench and climbed over Hanley and Tierney to head in a delicious cross from Andreas Ulmer.
Scotland were pushed back into their own box and there were no real upsets when the home side equalized, Schopf beating Gordon with a low drive from 18 yards.
The Scottish stopper then had to make a save on another Austrian substitute Andreas Weimann moments later and – from a position of strength – the Scots were happy to hear the final whistle.
Scotland extend unconsummated run – Opta stats
- Scotland are unbeaten in their last six away games against Austria in all competitions (W3 D3) – against no other team outside the British Isles have they ever had a longer unbeaten streak on the road (also six against Norway between 1974 and 2005).
- It was the first time Scotland had failed to win a match in which they were leading by at least two goals since August 2005 – which was also a 2-2 draw with Austria in a friendly.
- John McGinn has scored twice as many goals for Scotland under Steve Clarke as any other player (12). It was his 12th goal in all competitions for the national team, but only his second away from home.
Scotland have set their sights on their postponed World Cup play-off semi-final against Ukraine, scheduled for June, with victory sealing a potential final against Wales for a place at Qatar 2022.