David Alaba & Marko Arnautovic shine as Austria secure a hard-fought 3-1 win over North Macedonia in Group C opener.

Austria kickstarted their UEFA Euro 2020 campaign on a positive note, after securing a 3-1 victory over first-timers North Macedonia in Bucharest on Sunday.

The win wasn’t as comprehensive as the scoreline suggests, as the Austrians were rattled quite a lot of times by an inspired North Macedonian side that worked hard in their attempts to seal their first point in the competition.

It was evident in the way they fought for the equaliser after conceding an early goal in the 18th minute. They were rewarded as well, with veteran forward Goran Pandev levelling the score just before the half-hour mark.

North Macedonia kicked off the second half with more intent, even looking like the better side for a brief amount of time. However, a couple of smart substitutions by Austria coach Franco Foda changed the complexion of the game as both Marko Arnautovic and Michael Gregoritsch scored to help Das Team emerge as the victors.

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Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sets of players, as Austria secure a much-needed win in their opening game of Euro 2020.

Austria

Daniel Bachmann: 6.5/10

Daniel Bachmann was responsible for an error that led to North Macedonia’s equaliser. The Austria goalkeeper later made up for it with a good save to deny Eljif Elmas.

Aleksandar Dragovic: 5/10

Aleksandar Dragovic had a nervy start to the game, looking clumsy in possession. It was a difficult game overall for the former Bayer Leverkusen star, as he was subbed off at half-time.

David Alaba: 8/10

David Alaba operated at the heart of the three-man Austrian defence. He offered the much-needed solidity in the middle but was forced to play in a more attacking role in the second half. It paid off at the end, though, with the newly-signed Real Madrid superstar producing a sumptuous cross to feed Gregoritsch.

Martin Hinteregger: 7/10

Martin Hinteregger had nervy moments throughout the course of the game and should have done much better with the clearance that led to the goal. However, the Eintracht centre-back was often Austria’s best defender, producing some key blocks and tackles.

Xaver Schlager: 7/10

Xaver Schlager operated as the deep-lying midfielder for Austria. The move didn’t particularly suit him, as the Wolfsburg ace might have thrived in a more attacking role. The midfielder, nonetheless, covered a lot of ground and was crucial to the transition play.

Stefan Lainer: 8.5/10

Stefan Lainer was arguably the best player on the pitch for Austria. The Gladbach right-back looked inspiring right from the beginning, making a host of darting runs on the flanks, and providing excellent crosses. Even apart from his goal, Lainer was one of Austria’s biggest threats.

Konrad Laimer: 6.5/10

Konrad Laimer was given the nod ahead of Florian Grillitsch. Unfortunately, the Leipzig star could not really influence the game as much as he would have liked. Worked hard to help his team dominate the midfield, though.

Marcel Sabitzer: 7.5/10

Marcel Sabitzer was the main creative spark for Austria, as predicted in our preview. The playmaker caused too many problems with long balls over the top, one of which led to Lainer’s opener. His influence did wane as the game progressed, but he was a constant threat nonetheless.

Andreas Ulmer: 6/10

Andreas Ulmer wasn’t as impressive as some of his teammates. His role as a left wing-back didn’t really suit properly, but he did provide the support whenever it was required.

Christoph Baumgartner: 5/10

Christoph Baumgartner was given the license to operate in a more central role to influence Austria’s attacking play. The Hoffenheim starlet, though, could not make the desired impact on the proceedings and was subbed off around the hour mark.

Sasa Kalajdzic: 4/10

Sasa Kalajdzic had a disappointing performance in front of goal. He looked sharp but missed a glorious opportunity to score for Austria. It doesn’t reflect well for the striker, who might lose his place to Arnautovic in the next match.

Substitutes

Philipp Lienhart: 6/10

Philipp Lienhart was brought in for Dragovic at the start of the second half. He offered more assurance in possession for Austria but had to deal with the dynamic threat of Aleksandar Trajkovski.

Marko Arnautovic: 8/10

Marko Arnautovic changed the complexion of the game after coming on for Baumgartner around the hour mark. He provided the creativity Austria lacked in the second half, eventually scoring a late goal to mark his impact on the proceedings.

Michael Gregoritsch: 7.5/10

Michael Gregoritsch became a nuisance for North Macedonia inside the box. His clever movements made life difficult for the opposition centre-backs, and the forward was rewarded with a goal that turned out to be the winner.

Julian Baumgartlinger: N/A

A late replacement for Laimer. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.

Stefan Ilsanker: N/A

A late replacement for Schlager. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.

North Macedonia

Stole Dimitrievski: 7.5/10

Stole Dimitrievski made a phenomenal save to deny Arnautovic in the second half – one that could go down as one of the best saves of the tournament. Unfortunately, he was beaten shortly after.

Boban Nikolov: 6.5/10

Operating as a defensive wing-back, Boban Nikolov initially remained in his own half, trying to contain the Austria attack. He was seen in a more attacking role in the second half, notably making a few darting runs forward.

Stefan Ristovski: 7/10

Stefan Ristovski had to battle his way throughout the ninety minutes as he was involved in many heated moments and tackles. Showed immaculate commitment, but struggled to keep the Austrian attack quiet late in the game.

Darko Velkovski: 7/10

Darko Velkovski had a decent game at the heart of North Macedonia’s five-man backline. He made a total of six clearances while really impressing in-ground duels. Unfortunate to concede two late goals at the end.

Visar Musliu: 6.5/10

Visar Musliu had a solid game as well, though he perhaps wasn’t as influential as his other defensive teammates. His contribution, nonetheless, helped his team frustrate Austria.

Ezgjan Alioski: 7.5/10

Ezgjan Alioski had a lot of burden on his shoulders heading into this game. He initially had a slow start to the game but caused a lot of problems for the Austrian defence. A promising and hard-working display as ever, from the Leeds United star.

Enis Bardhi: 7/10

Enis Bardhi tried his best to use his dynamism and skill to cause problems for the opposition. He was very useful, at times as well, making excellent movements in the final third. Unlucky not to score a goal despite all his hard work.

Arijan Ademi: 6.5/10

Arijan Ademi was operating in the deepest midfield role for North Macedonia. He mainly tried to prevent Austria from dominating the game, but handling both Schlager and Sabitzer was too much for him.

Eljif Elmas: 7/10

Eljif Elmas was the main creative spark for North Macedonia going forward. The Napoli star offered multiple key passes in the final third, and went close to scoring himself. An impressive display on his Euro debut.

Aleksandar Trajkovski: 7/10

Aleksandar Trajkovski was often the main threat for the Austrian defence. His relentless movements across the channels, coupled with his aggression made life difficult for the opposition. Unfortunately, the North Macedonian forward lacked the decision-making skills in the final third, but he was indeed involved in the chance that led to Pandev’s goal.

Goran Pandev: 7/10

Goran Pandev objectively wasn’t as impressive as some of his attacking teammates. However, the veteran used his experience to take full advantage of a goalscoring opportunity. Deserves credit for tagging along for the entirety of the ninety minutes.

Substitutes

Egzon Bejtulai: 6.5/10

Egzon Bejtulai replaced Nikolov to add more offensive impetus on the right flank. The defender had his moments but not enough to help his team earn a lead in the second half.

Tihomir Kostadinov: 5/10

Tihomir Kostadinov replaced Trajkovski but it was not a wise move as the attacker offered very little to the table.

Ivan Trickovski: N/A

A late replacement for Bardhi. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.

Milan Ristovski: N/A

A late replacement for Musliu. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.

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