Austria are through to their first UEFA European Under-17 Championship final tournament since 2004 after a last-day 2-1 defeat of Georgia meant they pipped Serbia and the Republic of Ireland to elite round Group 2 first place in Vienna.
Going into the deciders all four teams were level on three points. Austria were two up early on against Georgia, who pulled one back before the break, and although the Republic of Ireland briefly led Serbia to go to the summit, that ended 1-1 and the 5 to 17 May.
Hermann Stadler, the Austria coach, told UEFA.com: "We are very proud of our team, which achieved great success thanks to teamwork and organised and responsible play. Before the final match we knew we needed to be wary of the Georgian forwards who presented a big threat to our defence. They caused us problems, especially in the first half, but we coped and improved after the break."
Serbia were much fancied prior to the mini-tournament owing to their superb qualifying round results and began by beating last year's surprise semi-finalists Georgia 2-0 through second-half Miladin Stevanović and Danilo Pantić strikes. Ireland took a 22nd-minute lead against Austria when Reece Grego-Cox make the most of a through ball from Eoghan Stokes and the group hosts were denied a point in snowy conditions as, after Pierce Mitchell handled in the box deep in added time, Peter Burke saved Adrian Grbic's penalty.
Tables were turned two days later. Georgia saw off Ireland 3-0. Luka Zarandia put Georgia ahead on 54 minutes and soon both Mitchell and Burke had been sent off, the goalkeeper going for bringing down Roman Tchanturia in the box. Substitute Harry Doherty saved Zarandia's spot kick but Ilia Kerdzevadze and another substitute Grigol Chabradze made sure Georgia exploited their two-man advantage. That left Georgia top on goals scored as Tobias Pellegrini struck with ten minutes left for Austria to win 1-0 against Serbia, who had Predrag Radojević dismissed in added time.
So to the final day and after the hosts had been grateful for two early Alexander Schlager saves, within 24 minutes Grbic had made one for Nikola Zivotic and then scored a free-kick himself. Georgia pulled one back before the break through Zarandia.
That was good news for Ireland, missing suspended Burke, Mitchell and Craig Donnellan, as they would have the head-to-head edge over Austria if they joined them on six points and on 50 minutes Jack Byrne converted a penalty to put them ahead against Serbia, who had Srdjan Babić dismissed. However, five minutes later Nemanja Radonjić levelled with a stunning bicycle kick.
Over in the other game, Jemal Tabidze headed on to the Austria bar with 13 minutes left; had he scored Georgia would have pipped their opponents to Slovakia. There was a frantic finish in the Serbia-Ireland game but neither could clinch it.
Stadler reflected: "I heard Ireland had many chances in their final game. We might have been a bit lucky, but I think we deserved to qualify. We are looking forward to playing at the championships, if we play like today we do not need to fear any team."
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