Vienna (AFP) – Scotland’s hopes of reaching a first World Cup since 1998 were given a huge boost as Lyndon Dykes’ penalty secured a hard-fought 1-0 over Austria in Vienna.
Automatic quailification still looks to be too big an ask for Steve Clarke’s men with Denmark romping away at the top of the Group F of European qualifying with a 100 percent record.
But Scotland are now best-placed to reach the playoffs as they edged a point ahead of Israel, who visit Glasgow next month, and four clear of Austria with four games to play.
Unlike Scotland, Austria reached the last 16 at Euro 2020 but a third defeat in six qualifiers for Qatar has put manager Franco Foda’s position back under pressure.
Foda’s men were thrashed 5-2 by Israel on Saturday and are now realistically relying on a playoff place via their performance in the Nations League for a second shot at reaching the World Cup.
A game high on intensity, but low on quality was decided by one moment on 30 minutes when Che Adams was dragged to the ground inside the box by Martin Hinteregger.
The Eintracht Frankfurt defender escaped punishment from the referee initially, but was caught out by a VAR review.
Hinteregger was lucky to stay on the field having been booked moments before for a wild lunge on Callum McGregor.
But Dykes ensured justice was done from the spot as his powerful effort slipped through the grasp of Daniel Bachmann.
Florian Grillitsch and Stefan Lainer fired off target for the hosts as half-time approached, but all of Austria’s most dangerous attacks came via Real Madrid’s David Alaba down the left.
Both sides had a disciplinary reprieve early in the second-half as Austria escaped another red card when Marko Arnautovic floored Billy Gilmour with a deliberate shoulder to the Norwich midfielder’s head.
Moments later Grant Hanley was booked for hauling down Hinteregger inside the box, but escaped without conceding a penalty as the ball was not yet in play from Alaba’s corner.
Scotland defended deep on their lead in the second half but occasionally threatened a killer second goal on the counter-attack as Stephen O’Donnell forced Bachmann into a fingertip save before John McGinn and Adams flashed shots just off target.
Craig Gordon was rarely called upon, but the Hearts goalkeeper produced a stunning save to seal victory when he parried Christoph Baumgartner’s header from close range.
Alaba had one last chance to save his side, but the Austrian captain’s free-kick drifted over in stoppage time to Scottish delight.
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