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Poland 1-3 Austria: Brilliant Arnautovic upstages returning Lewandowski

Austria move on to three points from two games and in with a shout of qualifying from Group D

Marko Arnautovic

Marko Arnautovic starred as Austria reignited their Euro 2024 qualification hopes with an impressive 3-1 defeat of Poland in Berlin.

With both sides having lost their opening Group D fixtures, the stakes were high but it was Ralf Rangnick’s men that ran out deserved winners with a display full of verve that proved too much for the Poles, who will be unable to finish in the top two if France avoid defeat to the Netherlands tonight.

Poland went ahead after nine minutes through recalled centre-half Gernot Trauner only for Poland to rally and level through Krzysztof Piatek.

Arnautovic then took centre stage, the 35-year-old showing the guile and creativity that has made him a fans’ favourite by playing a major role in the second – scored by Christoph Baumgartner after 66 minutes – before grabbing the third himself to move Austria on to three points with the Netherlands still to play.

Poland, for whom star striker Robert Lewandowski made his return from a thigh injury in the second half, play France next knowing even a win may not be enough.

Austria came flying out of the traps with Rangnick’s high-press, high-tempo philosophy in evidence.

Poland had little answer as Austria swarmed forward with Marcel Sabitzer and Baumgartner bossing midfield and recalled forward Arnautovic running the channels and dragging out the Poland defenders.

But for all their crisp passing and clever movement, the opening goal came from a rudimentary passage of play.

Phillipp Mwene’s long throw was only partially cleared and when the left wing-back crossed the ball back in, Trauner pulled free to power a header past Wojciech Szczesny.

It took Poland 16 minutes to get into Austria’s half although they immediately carried a threat.

Piotr Zielinski saw a shot blocked by Mwene while, a minute later, Nicola Zalewski shot wastefully over the bar having found space at the far post.

It seemed an equaliser was coming and it duly arrived on the half-hour mark. Jan Bednarek’s initial shot was blocked but Piatek showed great composure to take a touch and slot neatly past Patrick Pentz in the Austria goal.

Sabitzer fired wide as Austria looked to reassert their authority but it was Poland who finished the half stronger, Pentz producing a fine save to deny Zielinski.

An enterprising, open first half made way for a more cautious second as the two teams perhaps sensed what was at stake.

The stalemate was doing neither any good, though, prompting Poland boss Michal Probierz to throw on Lewandowski just before the hour mark.

The Barcelona star was booked within three minutes of his introduction for an elbow on Philipp Lienhart but otherwise offered little as he was upstaged by the brilliance of Arnautovic.

The Bologna striker, who spent last season on loan at Inter, was instrumental in Austria pulling away in the latter stages.

He made the second goal with a brilliant step over that enabled Alexander Prass’ ball to reach Baumgartner and he scored his 16th goal for his country with a composed finish.

He also made, and ultimately, scored the third with 12 minutes to go, initially flicking on a long ball that Sabitzer ran on to before being felled by Szczesny as he attempted to round the Juventus goalkeeper.

Arnautovic made no mistake from the spot, coolly slotting into the bottom right-hand corner.

Szczesny could not be blamed for any of the goals and he made a stunning save to keep out Stefan Posch’s piledriver with seven minutes to go.

Austria were rampant and Laimer almost made it 4-1, going round Szczesny but then shooting wide.

Picture of Jon Fisher

Jon Fisher

Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.