International Round-Up: Saturday

by Paul McNamara

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Ashley Williams skippered Wales to a vital World Cup qualifying victory over Austria on Saturday night.

The Welsh went into the match in Cardiff buoyed by Group D rivals Republic of Ireland dropping two points in a 1-1 draw with Georgia earlier in the day.

Defender Williams and his teammates had to weather an Austrian storm during a tense first-half at Cardiff City Stadium.

But Chris Coleman’s side grew into the contest after the break and teenage Liverpool forward Ben Woodburn struck the game’s only goal with 17 minutes to play.

There was still time for Williams to brilliantly block Marko Arnautovic’s goalbound drive, as unbeaten Wales moved onto 11 points, two behind second-placed Ireland – and a further two adrift of Serbia, who beat Moldova 3-0.

Wales are next in action when they meet the basement-dwelling Moldovans in Chisinau on Tuesday night.

Everton’s club-record signing Gylfi Sigurdsson, meanwhile, was in the Iceland team that went down to a shock 1-0 defeat to Finland in Tampere.

The Icelanders were unable to muster a response after New York City midfielder Alexander Ring scored a spectacular eighth-minute free-kick, albeit their cause was not helped when Rurik Gislasson – a 60th-minute substitute – lasted just quarter of an hour before receiving a second yellow card to leave his team a man down.

Iceland are second in Group I and level on points with Croatia after their second loss of the qualifying campaign. Ukraine, who hold a one-point advantage at the group’s summit, are Iceland’s next opponents – with the countries meeting in a critical clash in Reykjavic on Tuesday night.

Idrissa Gana Gueye’s Senegal survived the late dismissal of defender Kalidou Koulibaly to fight out a goalless draw with Burkina Faso in Dakar. 

Everton midfielder Gueye’s nation play the return fixture in Burkina Faso’s capital city Ouagadougou on Tuesday, when victory would take the Senegalese above their opponents and potentially to the head of African qualifying Group D.

Both sides will then have two matches remaining in the four-team group, with only the table toppers progressing to next year’s finals in Russia.   

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