Puntigam with the opener
Predicted to have the lions share of possession, Austria set off well, pushing from the off and making sure Wales were on their toes defensively. A loose back-pass from Rhiannon Roberts miss-controlled by Laura O’Sullivan gave way to an attempted worked corner between Barbara Dunst and Sarah Puntigam, the idea eventually fizzling into O’Sullivan’s gloves. Keeping the Dragons banked, Austria slipped the ball around, midfielders and full-backs pushing into the attacking half, Dunst getting a fair few touches as the hosts probed for an opening.
A middling cross from Sarah Zadrazil sparked the game into life, the ball refusing to drop to a white shirt as Wales blocked and semi-cleared, the ball making its way out to Puntigam 20-yards out. More than comfortable to give the ball a wallop from range, the defensive midfielder struck it cleanly, hammering it towards to the top corner, comfortably out of O’Sullivan’s reach.
A goal up and still seeing the better of it, Austria found themselves buried in Wales’ half for the majority of the first half but unable to break down the last time of defence, red shirts bright to block and clear the mounting danger. Looking to force the issue, a one-two between Puntigam and Zadrazil saw the former strike the ball from 30-yards, her shot twitching harmlessly over the bar.
For their part, Wales dug in well and stood their ground, refusing to buckle under the mounting pressure, their forays forward less impressive, hopeful crosses only ever finding those in white.
A triple-change for both sides at the break hammered home the greater importance of the match and tournament as a whole as one to try new things, bring other players into the fold and grow the group.
Offering more going forward, Wales easily slipped into their 5-4-1 to close the avenues of attack for Austria, the Euro semi-finalists still dictating the game but unable to find the pockets required. A Nicola Billa shot pinged off of the top of the bar just before the hour, the pressure and the heat beginning to tell.
More substitutions rolled through, the match not given a chance to settle after the break. A scrappy period of play allowed the Dragons to get forward, Angharad James’ eventual shot easily claimed by Manuela Zinsberger. The substitute ‘keeper called into action for just the second time after catching a scuffed shot from Hannah Miles.
Committing even more bodies in attack, Austria found themselves adopting a 2-4-4, their attacks lacking focus without a clear centre-forward at the helm, Laura Feiersinger and Zadrazil not able to take charge. A senior debut for Laura Weinroither saw the match winding down for the Austrians, Wales last gambit an attacker for a defender as they looked to claw one back late in the day. The change had an instant impact and Kayleigh Green used her fresh legs to chase down a long ball and get the better of Zinsberger as she charged out of her goal, the ball rolled into the empty net.
Two chances in the space of seconds came and went for Puntigam who found herself Jonny on the spot, her first shot expertly blocked before her second lashed straight into O’Sullivan’s gloves. A Wales attack lead to a swift counter from Stefanie Enzinger, her scything run finished with a shot from Feiersinger, O’Sullivan once more coming out on top.
Forgoing the arduous extra thirty minutes in the blistering afternoon Cypriot sun the two went straight to penalties, Wales first to take to the spot.
Having forced the shoot-out in the first place, Green was first to step up for Wales her shot to the left bottom left corner calmly put away.
First up for Austria, Feiersinger saw her kick well saved by O’Sullivan as the Dragons took the upper-hand for the first time in the match.
Having watched her fellow substitute do the business, Nadia Lawrence followed suit, opting for the left side of the goal as well.
Having failed to find an opening over the 90 minutes, Nina Burger made no mistake on the occasion of her 100th cap, the ball hammered into the bottom left corner.
Following the trend of substitutes for Wales, James was next up, her low effort put just wide of the left post.
With a strong showing since her own substitution into the match, Jennifer Klein kept it simple, the sixth penalty fired to the left side of the goal, parity restored.
Having played an exhaustive 90 minutes, Alice Griffiths stepped up and for the first time in the shoot-out opted for the right side of the goal, Zinsberger reading well to claim the weaker effort.
Given a chance to take the upper hand, Carina Wenninger fired Austria into the lead, the ball slipped just inside of the right-hand post.
Suddenly needing a goal to stay in it, Wales turned to skipper, Sophie Ingle, Zinsberger diving right as the defender fired left, the ball clipping off of the post and rolling out. The match decided without the need for a tenth penalty.