Austria tops Group D after late winner against Netherlands

Austria tops Group D after late winner against Netherlands
SunStar Soccer

BERLIN (AP) — Marcel Sabitzer scored late for Austria to advance to the knockout stage of the European Championship as group winner with a 3-2 victory over the Netherlands on Tuesday.

Austria topped Group D thanks to France drawing with Poland 1-1 in the other game. Both France and the Netherlands were already assured of progress thanks to results in other games.

“Group winner, group winner!” the Austrian fans chanted in the warm evening sunshine as they streamed out of Berlin’s Olympiastadion. Their Dutch counterparts, thousands of them dressed in vibrant orange, must now wait for the other groups to conclude to see which team awaits them in the next round.

Austria will play the second-place finisher in Group F — Turkey, Georgia or the Czech Republic — in Leipzig on Tuesday.

“If you beat the Netherlands and finish first in the group, then you can’t be so bad,” said Sabitzer, who plays in Germany for Borussia Dortmund. “The top priority for us was to progress, and we managed that. Now we need to bring it down a bit, get the heads clear, and then we’ll attack again.”

The Austrians had needed a point to be sure of advancing and got off to a great start with Dutch forward Donyell Malen scoring an own goal in the sixth minute.

First-half substitute Xavi Simons set up Cody Gapko to equalize two minutes after the break, but Romano Schmid headed Austria back in front in the 59th.

Memphis Depay equalized with a brilliant finish in the 75th, though he had to endure a VAR check as referee Ivan Kruzliak felt he handled the ball. The check found Depay hadn’t.

But Sabitzer restored Austria’s lead two minutes later with a fierce strike from a difficult angle.

It proved to be the winner despite a frenetic finale with chances at both ends.

Austria snapped a seven-game losing run against the Netherlands, including a group-stage defeat in the last edition of the tournament.

It was exactly 36 years to the day since the Netherlands won Euro ’88 in Munich.

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman, who played on that championship team in 1988, made three changes Tuesday to the team that drew against France. He had criticized Simons for not pressing enough in that match and subsequently dropped the young player in favor of Joey Veerman in midfield. Lutsharel Geertruida started for Denzel Dumfries at right-back, and Malen started in place of Jeremie Frimpong, who plays as a wing back for Bayer Leverkusen.

But Koeman’s team made a lethargic start in contrast to the busy Austrians, who scored when Malen turned Alexander Prass’ cross inside the left post.

Tijjani Reijnders and Malen both missed good chances to equalize. Koeman berated his charges and told his substitutes to warm up. He sent Simons on for Veerman in the 35th.

Simons’ entrance gave the Dutch more urgency. Depay saw a header cleared off the line before the break, and Simons set up Gapko after Florian Grillitsch lost the ball in midfield.

Koeman’s side maintained its pressure and looked more likely to score until Grillitsch crossed for Schmid to head Austria back in front with his first international goal. Ultimately, the Austrians were more clinical. / AP

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