Stefan Lainer, Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautović were on target as Austria recorded their first ever Euro victory.
Austria defeated North Macedonia by a margin of 3-1 in their Group C encounter of the Euro 2020. The win is extremely special from the former’s point of view, considering the fact that they have recorded their first-ever win in the illustrious football tournament. The team’s two previous campaigns in 2008 and 2016 had ended without a victory. Austria took an early lead in the 18th minute as Stefan Lainer calmly slotted the ball home.
North Macedonia who were making their maiden appearance in the popular tournament drew level in the 28th minute, courtesy a historic goal from Goran Pandev. Pandev scored the nation’s first-ever goal in a major tournament, delivering the goods when it mattered the most. The 37-year-old had made his international debut in June 2001 and went on to score on his Euro debut in June 2021, twenty years later. Pandev (37 years, 321 days) further became the second-oldest goalscorer ever in the popular tournament.
The two teams battled it out for supremacy at this stage as the scoreline read 1-1, with none of them willing to concede an inch. While opportunities were certainly created, they either broke down due to ineffective passing or lack of coordination. With just 15 minutes left on the clock, the encounter seemed set to go down as a draw. However, defender David Alaba who had recently signed for Real Madrid seized the initiative and modified his gameplay when his team needed a moment of magic. Alaba who looked calm and composed in the first half as a sweeper in the middle of a back three, moved to the left in the second half and began to push into the opposition half. The game-changing moment soon arrived.
Alaba became the first Austrian defender to assist in a major tournament in this century, since Anton Pfeffer’s assist against Cameroon in the 1998 World Cup. The Austria captain delivered a magical cross to substitute Michael Gregoritsch, who made no mistake converting effectively. His strike marked the 700th goal in the history of the tournament. Alaba was among the top performers in the encounter, winning all five duels while maintaining a 94 percent passing accuracy. The defender further contributed five crosses, three tackles, 2 clearances as well as two chances. No other player on the pitch registered more than 90 touches or completed more than 60 accurate passes. 50 percent of Austria’s goals scored in European Championships have been assisted by Alaba.
Marko Arnautovic further helped Austria dominate even further, with a goal in the 89th minute celebrating with great enthusiasm. Four of Austria’s five goals at the Euros have been scored by substitutes (80%), including two today from Gregoritsch and Arnautovic. The latter has jumped to the fifth position on the list of the nation’s record goalscorers, having accumulated 27 goals.
The game was certainly great fun from a neutral point of view, with Macedonia winning hearts on the back of a sensational performance. It will be interesting to note how they bounce back following this defeat.