5 things we learned from Republic of Ireland v Austria
The Republic of Ireland will head into the final four games of their World Cup qualifying campaign knowing a ticket to Russia remains within their grasp after a madcap 1-1 draw with Austria.
Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at what we learned from a game Martin O'Neill's men thought they had won amid a late onslaught, but might have lost had they not rallied at the death.
THE MESSAGE IS NOT GETTING THROUGH
O'Neill spent much of the week leading up to the game insisting his side would start on the front foot and take the game to Austria. His orders were ignored in spectacular fashion, if unintentionally, as the Republic stuttered through the first half which saw them subjected to intense pressure until they finally found their feet in the nick of time.
VARIETY IS NOT NECESSARILY THE SPICE OF LIFE
The manager used the friendly against Mexico in the United States to experiment with both personnel and system, the reasoning being that his players would be better prepared if the need arose to adopt a different shape during a competitive fixture. The 3-5-2 formation he used in New Jersey was not a success, but nor was the 4-2-3-1 with which he started against the Austrians and abandoned after just 36 minutes to move to 4-4-2. In the end, shape went completely out of the window as Ireland opted, successfully as it turned out, for chaos.
ONE SWALLOW DOES NOT A SUMMER MAKE
Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick, along with skipper Seamus Coleman, were the stars of the Republic's 2016 Euro finals campaign in France. But with Coleman on the long-term casualty list, Burnley pair Brady and Hendrick struggled to replicate the form which announced their arrival on the international stage. Even Brady's set-piece brilliance largely deserted him, while Hendrick looked far from the dominant force he was last summer.
DON'T MENTION THE WAR
Roy Keane did once, and he didn't get away with it. Assistant manager Keane's call to arms may not have surprised many this side of Vienna, but it did cause something of a stir within the Austrian camp and Marcel Koller's players - and defender Aleksandar Dragovic in particular - arrived ready for a physical battle. Perhaps referee David Fernandez Borbalan too had taken note given his decision to rule out Shane Duffy's late header as he bundled both the ball and defender Stefan Lainer into the net.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT WES
Wes Hoolahan is 35 years old. He is also Ireland's most inventive player. O'Neill has a greater appreciation of the Norwich schemer's talents than predecessor Giovanni Trapattoni, but he still at times cannot find a place for him in his starting XI. Hoolahan may not be the future of Irish football, but given the impact he made once again after being introduced as a substitute, it would be a crying shame to waste what is left of his international career when creativity is in such short supply elsewhere.
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