VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria defender Martin Hinteregger scored a goal that any striker would have been proud of to set up a 3-1 win over Israel in Euro 2020 qualifying on Thursday.
The Austrians moved into second place in Group G above Slovenia, who were surprised 2-1 away to North Macedonia with a Eljif Elmas brace, while a Robert Lewandowski hat-trick gave leaders Poland a comfortable 3-0 win away to basement side Latvia.
The top two in the six-team group qualify for Euro 2020.
Austria made a slow start in front of a half-full Ernst Happel stadium and were stunned when Eran Zahavi, scorer of a hat-trick in Israel’s 4-2 win in the first meeting of the two teams in the group, put the visitors in front with a sublime effort in the 34th minute.
Munas Dabbur threaded the ball through to Zahavi who side-stepped his marker and lashed a dipping shot into the top corner from 25 metres.
Valentino Lazaro slotted in the equaliser from Marco Arnautovic’s pass seven minutes later and Austria went ahead 11 minutes after the break.
Andreas Ulmer thumped a cross into the area where Hinteregger, between two defenders, controlled the ball on his thigh, turned and sent his effort past keeper Ofir Marciano
Marcel Sabitzer added the third with a deflected shot in the 88th minute to leave Austria second with 13 points from seven games, two ahead of North Macedonia and Slovenia. Poland lead with 16 and Israel are fifth with eight.
Slovenia nearly took a first-half lead in Skopje when Josip Ilicic ran the from near the halfway line and cut the ball back to Andraz Sporar whose effort was deflected wide.
Five minutes after the break, Elmas played a one-two with veteran Goran Pandev and dinked the ball over Jan Oblak to put North Macedonia in front.
A Slovenia corner lead to the second goal in the 68th minute. As the ball was cleared, North Macedonia burst forward and Arijan Ademi found Elmas who ran on and slipped a calm finish under Oblak. Ilicic’s stoppage-time penalty was too late for Slovenia.
The prolific Lewandowski took his tally to 11 goals in his last seven appearances for club and country with his treble against Latvia.
He exchanged passes with Sebastian Szymanski and beat keeper Andris Vanins after nine minutes and then turned in Kamil Grosicki’s low cross after Latvia were dispossessed in midfield.
He completed his sixth Poland hat-trick by tapping in Grosicki’s cross-shot in the 76th minute.
Latvia, who have lost all seven games in the group, extended their winless run to 15 internationals.
Writing by Brian Homewood in Vienna; Editing by Toby Davis