Austria got their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign off to a pretty much perfect start on Friday night when they brushed aside Azerbaijan at home, winning 4-1 as Manchester United man Marcel Sabitzer stole the show.
He opened the scoring before Michael Gregoritsch doubled the hosts’ lead after a matter of minutes. Sabitzer then produced the moment of the match early in the second half, doubling his tally and making it 3-0 before Emin Mahumudov pulled one back for Azerbaijan.
Any hope of a comeback was quickly extinguished as Christoph Baumgartner ensured that no late drama would ensue and that Austria would collect an expected, but still important three points as they look to next summer.
Marcel Sabitzer’s free-kick goal for Austria is out of this world
As mentioned above, the biggest moment of the match came when Sabitzer scored his second of the evening with a sumptuous free-kick, leaving Yusif Imanov with no hope in between the sticks. The strike was as close to perfection as you’ll ever see from the skipper.
From about thirty yards out, he powered the ball over the wall as he locked in on the top corner with pinpoint precision, there’s not a ‘keeper in the world who’d have kept that one out, it really was out of the top drawer.
It helped Austria secure a dominant win and go top of their group in qualifying after their first game and they’ll be looking to maintain their position until the end of the campaign now, something which may not be the easiest task in the world.
Video: Marcel Sabitzer scores sumptuous free-kick for Austria
Wow, that was hot from Sabitzer! 🇦🇹🔴🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/HmMGSptPel
— Omolade Badmus MUFC 🇳🇬🇶🇦🔴👀 (@OmoladeBadmus21) March 24, 2023
— UtdPlug (@UtdPlug) March 25, 2023
Austria sit at the summit of Group F, just ahead of Belgium who also had a winning start to their campaign. They were 3-0 victors over Sweden on Friday thanks to a hat-trick from Romelu Lukaku. Estonia are the other nation in the group, but on paper, that top spot will be contested for by Belgium and Austria, although you can’t write anyone off just yet.
There is still plenty of time in the race to qualify for Euro 2024, but Sabitzer and co. made sure they didn’t slip up at the first hurdle, getting points on the board emphatically rather than having to play catch up from the get go.
Goals scored is what sees the Austrians top the table so far, so there is little to separate them from the Belgians, hopefully something that remains and offers up a close battle for that top spot in Group F.