Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautovic came off the bench to score late goals as Austria fought off an inspired North Macedonia side to claim their first-ever victory at the European Championships.
Austria took the lead in this Group C opener, Stefan Lainer's gorgeous cushioned volley from an acute angle to convert Marcel Sabitzer's delightful deep cross breaking the deadlock in the 18th-minute in Bucharest.
But North Macedonia - playing in their first major tournament - restored parity just 10 minutes later following a comedy of errors in the Austria defence. Martin Hinteregger's clearance was blocked by Sabitzer and Daniel Bachmann raced off his line but somehow let the ball out of his grasp, gifting 37-year-old Goran Pandev a simple tap-in. He's now the second-oldest player to score at the Euros.
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Bachmann helped to make amends by denying Boban Nikolov from point-blank range as North Macedonia continued to push for a goal after the break, while at the opposite end Stole Dimitrievski had to be at full stretch to keep out Gregoritsch's header.
But Gregoritsch would not be denied. David Alaba started the match at centre-back but was moved into a more advanced role in the latter stages and he grabbed the assist with a sensational low cross for the FC Augsburg forward to sidefoot home with just 12 minutes remaining.
Fellow substitute Arnautovic settled the contest with a cool finish in the 89th-minute after rounding the goalkeeper to give Austria a victory that looked comfortable but certainly wasn't.
TALKING POINT - History is made as Austria break North Macedonia hearts
No matter what happens in the tournament, no one can ever take this occasion away from North Macedonia and Goran Pandev. The veteran had extended his career to play in this tournament, and he must have been dreaming of marking it with a goal. It was the Genoa striker who had scored the winner to ensure North Macedonia prevailed in the playoffs and, having celebrated his 20th anniversary as an international player just last week, it was fitting that he created another piece of history today.
But Austria ruined the party, making history of their own. Eyebrows were raised when Alaba started the game at centre-back but as Austria grew desperate Franco Foda took the shackles off him and his decision was justified. Whether he remains in a more advanced position going forward remains to be seen, but they could certainly do with their star player influencing things in attack.
MAN OF THE MATCH - David Alaba (Austria)
Having starred in Austria's defence for well over an hour, the 28-year-old then provided the moment of the match, a deadly cross that gave Austria the lead with just 12 minutes left to play.
Austria: Bachmann 5, Lainer 8, Dragovic 6, Hinteregger 6, Ulmer 5, Baumgartner 6, Laimer 7, Schlager 7, Alaba 9, Sabitzer 8, Kalajdzic 6.. subs: Lienhart 6, Arnautovic 7, Gregoritsch 8, Ilsanker N/A, Baumgartlinger N/A,
North Macedonia: Dimitrievski 8, Alioski 7, Musliu 6, Velkoski 6, Ristovski 6, Nikolov 6, Elmas 7, Ademi 6, Bardi 6, Trajkovski 6, Pandev 7.. subs: Bejtulai 5, Kostadinov 5, M Ristovski N/A, Trickovski N/A
18' - GOAL! Austria 1-0 North Macedonia (Stefan Lainer): Austria take the lead! It's a lovely finish from Lainer, he gets free at the far post to meet Sabitzer's deep cross, keeping himself onside, and volleys it home from the angle. Great goal.
28' - GOAL! Austria 1-1 North Macedonia (Goran Pandev): It had to be him didn't it?! It's a magic moment for North Macedonia as the 37-year-old Pandev scores his country's first ever goal at a major tournament and level the scores. However, it comes from a comedy of errors in the Austria defence as Hinteregger's clearances hits Sabitzer, Bachmann races off his line but somehow lets the ball out of his grasp and it's a simple finish for Pandev, who scores his 38th goal for North Macedonia.
78' - GOAL! Austria 2-1 North Macedonia (Michael Gregoritsch): Gregoritsch scores to break Austria hearts! It's a wicked delivery from Alaba, now playing on the left, Gregoritsch makes a run across the goalkeeper and sidefoots it home. Austria are now on course for their first-ever win at a European Championship.
89' - GOAL! Austria 3-1 North Macedonia (Marko Arnautovic): That will settle it! Arnautovic takes this goal really well, playing a nice give-and-go with a team mate before rounding the goalkeeper and slotting it into an empty net.
- Four of Austria's five goals at the EUROs have been scored by substitutes (80%), including two today from Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautovic.
- Aged 37 years and 321 days, North Macedonia's Goran Pandev is the second-oldest player ever to score at the EUROs, after Austria's Ivica Vastic (38 years 257 days) vs Poland in 2008.
- Stefan Lainer scored his second goal for Austria, with the other also coming against North Macedonia. Likewise, Marcel Sabitzer's last assist for his national team came against North Macedonia.
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