CARDIFF, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Wales teenager Ben Woodburn enjoyed a stunning international debut, scoring a spectacular long-range winner in the 1-0 Group D World Cup qualifying victory over Austria five minutes after coming off the bench in Cardiff.
There could hardly be a more thrilling introduction to international football for the 17-year-old who was thrown on by manager Chris Coleman in the second half as Wales struggled to secure the victory essential to keeping their hopes of qualifying alive.
The result ended a run of five successive draws and left them on 11 points, two behind Ireland, who they will play in their final qualifier in Cardiff, and four off leaders Serbia. Austria stayed on eight points, almost certainly out of the running.
Coleman made an equally crucial substitution at halftime, bringing on Andy King to snuff out the threat of Bayern Munich’s David Alaba, who had orchestrated most of Austria’s best first-half moments.
As the tempo picked up after the interval, Aaron Ramsey pushed further forward and had one shot tipped over and another diverted wide by keeper Heinz Lindner.
Gareth Bale also went close with a left-foot shot to ignite a crowd desperate to see a rerun of Wales’ Euro 2016 heroics.
At the other end, Bale pulled off a superb saving tackle to deny Martin Harnik as both sides went for victory.
The introduction of Woodburn came as a surprise because the striker has not featured for Liverpool this season but he seized his moment spectacularly, collecting the ball outside the area, taking one touch and sending a low curling right-foot shot just inside the post after 74 minutes.
That ensured a frenzied finish with another substitute Hal Robson-Kanu firing over when Bale was completely free in the area. Both went close again, Bale from an overhead bicycle kick and Robson-Kanu with a shot that hit the post.
Reporting by Neil Robinson, editing by Ed Osmond