Austria’s U19s lived up to the cliché of it being a “game of two halves”, with radically different performances either side of the break in tonight’s 3-3 draw with Malta in Linz. For the friendly, manager Surman gave starts to to five players of the squad who didn’t feature in last Thursday’s 2-1 win over Moldova.
After a promising start from the hosts, it was the visitors who struck first with Stephen Buttigieg putting Malta in front with a stunning 35-yard strike that seemed to sap the life from Austria. Second to every ball, it looked a matter if when-not-if the visitors would double the lead.
Two minutes before the break, they did just that, with Buttigieg grabbing his second from the edge of the box after the midfield was carved open by some fine Maltese passing.
Surman made seven changes at the break, and the team that looks much more like his best eleven took just over three minutes to get back in the game, with skipper Florian Madlmayr heading home from a corner, with the side pushing for an equaliser afterwards. Buttigieg completed his hat-trick on the hour to stun the home crowd when he turned home Malta’s only corner of the game, restoring the two-goal lead.
From another corner, Michael Rauth pulled a goal back for the hosts to keep them in the game, and when he slotted home in the final two minutes after Dittrich smashed a shot against the underside of the bar, the flag went up on the far side. The call was awful, but the decision stood.
While some teams would rage at the officials and lose focus for the next few moments, Austria used it as motivation. Rauth played a neat one-two with Sebastian Dittrich on the edge of the box before the latter grabbed an equaliser just fifty seconds later, with barely ten seconds of normal time remaining.
Welcome to Linz for the friendly between Austria and Malta Under 19s. The home side have given starts to the five players of their 23-man squad who didn’t feature in Thursday’s 2-1 win here over Moldova.
Today’s referee is Jochen Drees from Germany. He took charge of Gray Surman’s Dortmund side three times last season, with Dortmund winning all three. The matches finished 3-2, 5-1, and 4-2, so goals could be on the cards today!
 Off we go. Austria kick-off in red and black. Malta in all-white.
 First touch for Austrian ‘keeper Lucas Bundschuh as he takes a goal kick after a Maltese ball forward was too long. Austria comfortable so far, showing good signs of attacking down either flank.
 Marian Berger tees up a shot for his captain Jonathan Scherzer to hit from the edge of the box, but a Maltese defender charges it down and they clear.
 Ryan Vella’s pace gets him inside the box, he pulls the ball back across the face of goal but Stephen Buttigieg’s shot flashes half a yard wide of the Austrian goal. Let off for the hosts.
 First corner goes to Austria as Azzopardi puts behind a long-ball into the box for Berger.
 Malta clear one, two, three deliveries into the box before managing to get the ball forwards from the Austrian corner.
 Christian Curmi has a shot from the edge of the box but the Maltese midfielder bends it well wide. He looks dangerous coming from deep.
 Again, Curmi is alowed to run at the back four. He beats his man and fires at goal from 18 yards. Bundschuh pushes it away and René Schröder makes a fine challenge on Falzon to deny him a tap-in.
 Austria 0-1 Malta: What a strike! I was just typing that the hosts weren’t winning any of the battles in midfield, but somewhat interrupted by a sublime goal. Marco Borda wins it in the centre circle before slipping it to Stephen Buttigieg. He takes a touch, looks up, and smashes it over Bundschuh from fully 35 yards.
 Arlin Hamzaj tries to catch Muscat off his line with a free-kick from 30 yards but the Maltese ‘keeper gets back to claim the ball safely.
 Berger works the ball into the box for Littmann but he goes to square it rather than take on the shot and they give it away.
 Half-hearted penalty appeal for the hosts as Jonas Littmann goes to ground under a challenge from Bezzina. Nothing from the German referee. Good work from Markoutz to keep the ball in on the left and get a cross in.
 The ball’s at Littmann’s feet on the edge of the six-yard box after Berger’s cross takes a deflection and falls to him. Again he hesitates and a challenge comes in. Surman bellows “pull the trigger” from the home dugout.
 Bergmeister smashes a shot towards the top corner from 25 yards and a fine save from Muscat tips it over the top.
 Austria win their third corner, but all three deliveries have been poor tonight.
 Buttigieg fizzes a shot just wide of Bundschuh’s goal.
 Fourth corner for Austria, they’re coming forwards more and more but the final ball isn’t always the right one. Expect changes at the break.
 Markoutz and Bergmeister test Muscat within seconds of each other but he’s equal to both.
 Austria 0-2 Malta: The visitors go straight up the other end and punish Austria’s slack defending. Curmi squares the ball right across the edge of the box, Falzon helps it on, and Stephen Buttigieg drills it first-time into the bottom corner. Killer timing.
[45+1] Buttigieg exchanges passes with Falzon on the edge of the box before firing curling a shot over the top.
HALF-TIME: Austria 0-2 Malta (U19 International).
[HT] Seven changes for Austria at the break. Replaced are goalkeeper Bundschuh, Rosenberger, Schröder, and Hofer at the back, Scherzer and Markoutz in the midfield and striker Berger. On come Eckert, Dittrich, Madlmayr, Nindl, Gimpl, Maak and Rauth.
[HT] One change for Malta: Smeir on for Borda.
 Fantastic challenge from Cassar on Dittrich in the area. Timed perfectly to deny the Austrian a shot from close range. Corner to the hosts.
 Austria 1-2 Malta: The hosts needed an early goal in this half to put the pressure on and they’ve got it from the corner. Arlin Hamzaj lifts it in to the near post and Florian Madlmayr powers his header past Omar Muscat.
 It’s been all Austria since the goal, but haven’t been able to make Muscat make a save. Rauth coming close with a shot from the edge of the box.
 Michael Rauth heads a Littmann cross towards goal but the visiting ‘keeper gets down to push it away before gathering.
 Austria 1-3 Malta: Hat-trick for Stephen Buttigieg, and thoroughly deserved. From their first corner of the game, captain Antoine Wellmann fires it into the box, with Buttigieg catching it on the volley to send it past Eckert.
 Almost straight from the restart, Littmann finds Dittrich in the box but he takes a heavy touch which leads to a tame shot on the stretch that Bezzina blocks and clears.
 Malta make their second change, replacing Muscat (7.0) in goal with Anthony Briffa.
 Into the final quarter of an hour. Austria huffing and puffing but nothing to show for it yet.
 Change for Malta as Austria wait to take a corner. On comes Kurt Agius for Falzon (7.9).
 Austria 2-3 Malta: From the corner comes a second goal for the hosts. Hamzaj’s delivery is headed away on the edge of the six-yard box by Wellman. It falls to Michael Rauth who turns and hits it on the volley from the edge of the box, sending it flying through the crowd into the back of the net.
 Great work from Austria, with Madlmayr and Littmann combining down the right. The ball gets pulled back for Arlin Hamzaj but his shot from 15 yards is saved well by Briffa. With their half-time subs, this is a much more impressive Austrian side.
 Bergmeister gets his foot in to intercept a loose short Austria pass and finds Rauth. The ball goes through to Dittrich who beats his marker but can’t get a shot away cleanly. The hosts pushing everything they have for an equaliser.
 Rauth is a whisker away from an equaliser, flicking on Maak’s cross towards goal but Briffa saves.
 Malta have barely touched the ball since the equaliser, but they do when Cassar makes a strong challenge on Hamzaj inside the box.
 They’ve done it! Less than 90 seconds of normal time remaining, but Michael Rauth has his second of the game to tie it up. Sebastian Dittrich smashes a shot against the bar from 25 yards out, Rauth reacts quickest and slots home the rebound. No, wait, the flag is up for offside! The home bench are in heated discussion with the officials. An absolute stinker of a call from the assistant. Rauth is played on by at least two defenders.
 Austria 3-3 Malta: Everyone looks to the assistant before celebrating this time, but it’s good! Bergmeister hassled the ball back in the middle, finding Sebastian Dittrich. He plays a one-two with Rauth before smashing home from 15 yards out. Fifty seconds between the two incidents.
 Malta are making a double change: Stefan Diemech and Joseph Fenech are replacing Bezzina (6.9) and Curmi (7.0) for the final few seconds.
[90+1] Michael Rauth nearly wins it from 25 yards out with a drive that skims the woodwork, leaving Briffa standing still.
FULL-TIME: Austria 3-3 Malta (U19 International Friendly). [PKM]
A much-improved second-half performance from Austria after the introduction of, arguably, the squad’s first-choice players in their respective positions. They were toothless before the break, being second-best to nearly every ball in the midfield. The majority of the players after the break are probably on the plane to the Netherlands next month, while some others may be sweating on their inclusion for the UEFA Qualifiers.
- 08.10: UEFA Qualifying Netherlands v. Austria (Enschede)
- 10.10: UEFA Qualifying Austria v. Andorra (Enschede)
- 12.10: UEFA Qualifying Austria v. Estonia (Enschede)
- 12.11: U19 International Austria v. Bosnia & Herzegovina (Salzburg)