Belfast Telegraph

Republic of Ireland's Harry Arter thrilled to rip up the history books

Austria 0 Republic of Ireland 1

By Aidan Fitzmaurice

Harry Arter wasn't even born the last time the Republic of Ireland won a qualifier away from home against a higher-ranked nation, so the historic nature of Saturday's win in Austria is not something that bears down on the 26-year-old.

Making his competitive international debut was more of an occasion for Arter to celebrate, but the fact that the Republic head into 2017 on top of the Group D table - with Austria now all but out of contention - is even more reason for the Bournemouth man to beam a large smile.

"It should be a good moment for the country," said Arter of the Republic's first away qualifying victory over a major nation since Scotland in 1987. "We didn't have a great record here in Austria, in fact it was a very poor record, so it's good to get a result. It puts us in a great position, and puts them in a lot of trouble for the rest of the qualifying campaign.

"You looked at the group and you probably would have viewed them as one of the favourites, so it's great to take the three points. That has backed up a few good results before this game, so everything's looking good at the moment.

"If we had come to Austria and won in each of the past 10 years it wasn't going to make Saturday any easier or more difficult. So I don't think that record had too much effect on it, but it is nice to change what had gone on in the past."

For team-mate Shane Duffy, winning the group is now a very realistic target for an side who have enjoyed their best start to a qualifying campaign in 22 years.

"That's what we're aiming for. If we fall short it's the play-offs. That's where we want to be - one of the top two spots," said Duffy.

"It's a very, very difficult group and anyone can beat anyone. The next couple of fixtures are so important to see who tops the group.

"It's a good start, but that's all it is. It is a long break until Wales in March now, but every team is in the same position.

"Everyone will focus on their club football and we just hope everyone is fit when we come back. Everyone will be itching to come in and try and play a massive game against Wales."

Jonathan Walters, meanwhile, is refusing to cast even one eye towards Russia despite Saturday's success.

The Stoke striker said: "We've got 10 points from the first four games, drawing away to Serbia and coming to places like this. We've started the campaign really well but we've got some huge games coming up in March and next summer.

"It's a win, we're happy with where we are, but there's a long way to go."

For all Walters' caution, there were several causes for celebration in Austria - as well as their first away qualifying win over a higher-ranked side since 1987, it was also their fourth victory over a team rated higher than them by Fifa inside the last 13 months.

It came courtesy of a fine counter-punch which left the hosts, who dropped only two of a possible 30 points in qualifying for Euro 2016, flailing.

Marcel Koller's side had dominated the first half. But they were behind within three minutes of the restart when substitute David Meyler, on for the injured Glenn Whelan, broke from his own half and fed Wes Hoolahan, whose pass to James McClean was perfectly timed for the winger to race away and thump a low shot inside the far post.

Walters said: "It was a good goal by James, and a clean sheet. To come to a difficult place like this and win is great. They're a good team and we'll take the three points all day.

"It is always nice going into the break with a win."

AUSTRIA: Ozcan, Klein, Dragovic, Hinterigger, Wimmer, Baumgartlinger, Alaba, Sabitzer (Harnik, 73 mins), Schopf (Schaub, 57 mins), Arnautovic 7, Janko 6. Unused subs: Linder, Lukse, Stangl, Ilansker, Onisiwo, Harnik, Suttner, Madl, Schaub, Hinterseer, Gregoritsch, Lazaro.

REP OF IRELAND: Randolph, Coleman, Duffy, Clark, Brady, Whelan (Meyler, 24 mins), Arter, Hendrick, Hoolahan (McGoldrick, 78 mins), Walters 6, McClean. Unused subs: Doyle, Westwood, O'Shea, Keogh, McGeady, Horgan, Doyle, McShane, O'Dowda, Pearce.

Referee: Sergei Karasev

Man of the match: James McClean

Match rating: 6/10

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