Ireland tops WCup qualifying group after win in Austria

Ireland seized control of its World Cup qualifying group on Saturday, beating Austria 1-0 away then seeing rivals Wales and Serbia share the points after a dramatic end to their 1-1 draw in Cardiff.

James McClean's 48th-minute goal in Vienna earned Ireland a third victory in four matches in Europe's Group D, and left fourth-place Austria facing an uphill task to secure the one automatic qualifying place on offer.

Hours later in Cardiff, Gareth Bale put Wales ahead against Serbia with his 26th international goal and came close to sealing victory when he struck the base of the post with a shot in the 85th. The Serbians went up the other end of field and equalized 50 seconds later, with striker Aleksandar Mitrovic glancing a header in off the post.

"You get close one end and they go the other end and score. Very disappointing," said Bale, who was two goals off Ian Rush's national record.

Ireland has 10 points, Serbia 8, Wales 6 and Austria 4.

In the group's other game, Georgia and Moldova drew 1-1, keeping them both on the bottom.

Ireland hadn't beaten Austria in nine matches, stretching back to 1963, and had to ride its luck during a difficult first half in Vienna.

Marcel Sabitzer hit the crossbar six minutes before halftime.

"I believe, and have always believed, this group will be tight, teams will still take points from each other," Ireland manager Martin O'Neill said.

"There's a million miles to go."

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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