Two late goals ensured Austria denied North Macedonia a fairytale maiden victory in its first appearance at a major tournament in a frantic Euro 2020 clash in Bucharest.
In an even, entertaining match, substitutes Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautovic gave Austria a 3-1 victory over in the opening match of Group C on Monday (AEST).
Gregoritsch prodded home David Alaba’s cross in the 78th minute before Arnautovic struck in the 89th, as Austria earned a first win at the Euros at their seventh attempt and their first victory at a major tournament since the 1990 World Cup.
Stefan Lainer put Austria ahead with an acrobatic effort in the 18th minute when he latched on to Marcel Sabitzer’s cross-field pass at the back post, leaping into the air to beat keeper Stole Dimitrievski from a tight angle.
Both Lainer and Gregoritsch held up a tee-shirt after scoring which said: “Eriksen stay strong”.
The supporters of both teams applauded before the game when the giant screen above the field displayed the message “Best Wishes Christian.”
Eriksen collapsed on the field while playing for Denmark on Saturday. He is still in the hospital in Copenhagen but in stable condition.
Evergreen North Macedonia captain Goran Pandev, aged 37, equalised 10 minutes later to bag his team’s first-ever goal at a major tournament.
The Genoa veteran capitalised on a mix-up in the Austrian defence to slide the ball home.
However, despite increasingly frantic efforts, it was not to be for the tournament’s lowest-ranked team.
Austria resume their campaign against Netherlands in Amsterdam on Thursday, while North Macedonia stay in Bucharest to face Ukraine.