Austria 2 Sweden 1
Ireland's Group C rivals Austria strengthened their grip on second place with victory over rivals Sweden in Vienna.
Ahead of the visitors on goal difference alone, and having played a game more, Austria’s position was more than a little vulnerable going into the match but David Alaba’s penalty and a Marc Janko header put them in control.
Although Johan Elmander pulled a goal back late on, Austria held on for three vital points.
In a match with plenty of chances at both ends, Janko was first to threaten when he fired wide from close range in the fifth minute, while Emanuel Pogatetz got in a vital block to deny Sebastian Larsson at the other end moments later.
Jonas Olsson headed just wide for Sweden but the game moved in Austria’s favour in the 25th minute.
Goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson brought down Martin Harnik in the area and was relieved to see yellow before local lad Alaba delighted the Viennese crowd with a placed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal.
Marko Arnautovic went close moments later but the second goal was not long in coming, arriving in the 32nd minute when Janko headed home Harnik’s cross.
It might have been even better but for a fine save from Isaksson to keep out Zlatko Junuzovic before Alaba and Arnautovic missed the target from range.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic barely figured in the first half and his first chance was comfortably saved by Robert Almer early in the second.
The Paris St Germain man had another chance with a free-kick just before the hour mark but blasted it straight into the wall.
At the other end, Jonas Olsson made a vital block to keep out Andreas Weimann’s close-range effort.
The chances were coming thick and fast now, with Almer comfortably holding an Ibrahimovic header before making a fine save to keep out Larsson’s left-footed drive.
Isaksson then made another good block to deny Weimann before Sweden got back in it with nine minutes left, Ibrahimovic teeing up Elmander for a lobbed finish over Almer.
But they never created another chance as Austria held on for victory.