Late heartbreak for Northern Ireland as Austria grab equaliser at Seaview

Northern Ireland suffered late heartache as Stefanie Enzinger’s stoppage-time equaliser denied them what would have been a famous Women’s World Cup qualifying win over Austria at Seaview on Tuesday night.

Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 9:25 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 9:33 pm

Two goals in five minutes from Laura Wade and Demi Vance had put Northern Ireland in control after Barbara Dunst gave the visitors a half-time lead, but they could not quite hold out for a third win in Group D as it finished 2-2.

Before kick-off, a draw would have been seen as a good result against a side ranked 27 places above Northern Ireland in the world rankings.

But after Austria passed up a string of late chances – Laura Feiersinger sending a lob inches wide, Jacqueline Burns saving well from Sarah Puntigam before Nicole Billa struck the crossbar – Kenny Shiels’ side must have thought a significant win was theirs.

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Instead, as the final whistle loomed, Austria captain Carina Wenninger sent a curling ball forward and Enzinger raced on to it to head beyond Burns as the goalkeeper strayed off her line.

Hit by the late loss of Caragh Hamilton, Chloe McCarron, Laura Rafferty and Nadene Caldwell from the squad, it was little surprise to see Northern Ireland come under pressure in the first half, with Burns doing well to keep out Dunst’s well-hit free-kick low to her right.

But there was nothing the Glentoran goalkeeper could do four minutes before the break when Sarah Zadrazil slipped the ball through for Dunst to run into the area and fire home from a tight angle.

It was a real blow on the stroke of half-time but Shiels found the right words in the dressing room as Northern Ireland turned things around almost immediately.

There was less than a minute of the second half played when Rachel Furness’ diagonal ball found Wade who poked the ball beyond Manuela Zinsberger, and four minutes later the hosts led as Vance beat the goalkeeper with a superb free-kick, but it was not enough for victory.