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Austria’s manager, Franco Foda, hailed his history makers after a 3-1 win over North Macedonia. Late goals from the substitutes Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautovic in Bucharest earned the country their first victory at a European Championship.
Stefan Lainer had given Austria the lead, only for Goran Pandev to equalise for North Macedonia in the 28th minute on their first appearance at a major tournament.
“We deservedly won and congratulations to the lads, they wrote history today,” said Foda. “Overall I’m very satisfied. We started well and deservedly scored the opener. We could have scored a second, but then we didn’t focus in one moment and conceded the equaliser.
“In the second half we talked about two or three things, to play faster and more on the wings. We were more agile and the substitutes showed their effect.
“The substitutes were important, which is why you have players on the bench. A team consists of 26 players. With Marko, in preparation he was injured, didn’t train that much and that’s why I decided to bring him on later. This last week he trained with us more, but I don’t know if we want to start him or play him for 60 or 70 minutes [in Thursday’s next game against the Netherlands]. The players see it in a different way, but Marko is a key player in our team.”
Lainer’s classy close-range volley from Marcel Sabitzer’s arrowed cross gave Austria the lead in the 18th minute, only for Pandev to level when he cashed in on the Watford goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann’s mistake. The strike made the 37-year-old Pandev became the European Championship’s second-oldest goalscorer, behind the former Austria forward Ivica Vastic, who scored age 38 at Euro 2008.
North Macedonia held firm until 12 minutes from time when Gregoritsch stole in at the near post to convert David Alaba’s excellent delivery. The former West Ham forward Arnautovic then added a third in the closing stages.
“I can’t not be proud of my players who qualified,” said North Macedonia’s manager, Igor Angelovski. “We functioned well, there were moments where we had possession and control of the situation.
“The key was the second goal from Austria, but there is no room for disappointment. We have to improve ourselves in order not to repeat the mistakes we have done.
“The aim was to provide chances for Goran in attack and we knew we played against a national team who run a lot. I’m speechless about the atmosphere our supporters created. I hope we can reward them with a good result in the next match. We’ve two matches to go and will start to prepare ourselves for the next game against Ukraine.” Angelovski’s side face the Ukraineians on Thursday.
Austria twice defeated North Macedonia in qualifying and could have gone two goals up soon after Lainer’s opener but the unmarked Sasa Kalajdzic stabbed Sabitzer’s cross straight at goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski.
Pandev, who struck the play-off winner against Georgia to take his country to this tournament, scored by tapping into an empty net after Bachmann raced out and failed to gather following a defensive mix-up.
Aleksandar Trajkovski looked fortunate to receive only a yellow card after appearing to elbow Aleksandar Dragovic in an aerial challenge.
Bachmann made amends for his error by diving at the feet of Boban Nikolov to deny the wing-back after Eljif Elmas’s exquisite pass carved the Austria defence open. Dimitrievski then came to his side’s rescue at the other end, diving full stretch to keep out Gregoritsch’s smart header.
After Gregoritsch had restored Austria’s lead Arnautovic got in behind the North Macedonia defence and went past Dimitrievski before rolling the ball into the net.