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Witsel double for Belgium beats Austria

Austria 0-2 Belgium
A goal early in each half from Axel Witsel earned Belgium their second win in Group A and put paid to the hosts' unbeaten start.

Austria's Martin Harnik (left) competes with Belgium's Axel Witsel
Austria's Martin Harnik (left) competes with Belgium's Axel Witsel ©Getty Images

Axel Witsel scored twice as Belgium reinvigorated their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying campaign by inflicting Austria's first defeat in Group A.

Austria's prospects of winning for the sixth competitive home game in succession were hit when the R. Standard de Liège midfielder headed Belgium in front early on. His second, five minutes into the second half, confirmed a victory which rarely seemed in doubt and one which lifts Georges Leekens' charges level on points with their second-placed opponents ahead of Tuesday's encounter with Azerbaijan.

Belgium dampened an expectant home crowd with the opener on six minutes as two Standard team-mates combined. Steven Defour's high ball into the penalty area seemed speculative at best but Witsel, with the Austria defence pushing out, emerged unmarked to beat outrushing goalkeeper Jürgen Macho to the ball.

Stung into action, Austria immediately went in search of the equaliser, with debutant Simon Mignolet in the visitors' goal twice coming to his team's aid. His first intervention − a smothering save − came when Daniel Van Buyten's clearance hit Zlatko Junuzović and set Marc Janko through on goal, while a few minutes later he tipped Ekrem Dağ's powerful long-range strike over the crossbar.

The Red Devils, however, always posed a threat on the break and after Nacer Chadli ended a patient move by firing into the side netting within seconds of the restart, Witsel claimed his and Belgium's second. Laurent Ciman was the provider, swinging over a deep cross which Witsel calmly chested down before rifling inside the near post.

Austria redoubled their efforts but, aside from substitute Yasin Pehlivan's low shot which skidded past Mignolet's right-hand post, Dietmar Constantini's team were muted as an attacking force. They will hope for an improvement when they play Turkey on Tuesday.