Ralf Rangnick's first game in charge was one to savour as Austria cruised to victory in Croatia.
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Austria made a sensational start to the Ralf Rangnick era as they eased to a comprehensive victory in their UEFA Nations League League A Group 1 opener against Croatia.
41' Arnautović curls in opener from edge of area
54' Gregoritsch sweeps home Wöber cross
57' Sabitzer thumps third from distance
Match in brief: Clinical Austria impress new coach
A piece of individual brilliance from Austria skipper Marko Arnautović in his 99th international appearance helped send new boss Rangnick to a notable success in his first game in charge.
The visitors were seeking a first-ever win in this fixture but nearly fell behind when Mario Pašalić nodded narrowly wide from Josip Brekalo's pinpoint cross. Instead, they went into the interval on top thanks to Arnautović's sublime curling finish following a powerful run from midway inside the Croatia half.
A trio of half-time changes by Rangnick paid dividends nine minutes after the restart, with substitute Michael Gregoritsch guiding Maximilian Wöber's cutback expertly into the far corner. Marcel Sabitzer quickly added an impressive third, drilling a low effort from distance just inside the upright to complete a near-perfect evening for his new coach.
Elvir Islamović, match reporter
What a game by Austria! This was a sensational start for Rangnick. He gave his opposite number Zlatko Dalić a lesson tonight as Austria achieved an impressive win. Croatia tried but could not apply the finishing touches in the first half, and Austria capitalised on their chances with some style. It appears that the Croatia boss is still very far from finding a winning combination ahead of the FIFA World Cup later this year.
Marko Arnautović, Austria forward: "The players were full of energy. Croatia are an excellent team, but we played a great match. We turned our chances to goals and deserved this win. We want to return to the top."
Ralf Rangnick, Austria coach: "We had problems in the first 25 minutes, but getting the lead just before the break did us good. In the second half we played really well and scored two wonderful goals. We could even have scored more. I am very satisfied."
Lovro Majer, Croatia midfielder: "This is a disappointment for all of us. It was a strange match: we looked good in the first half and then we conceded from a counterattack. We were positioned badly the whole match and when we lost the ball, they turned it into a goal."
- Austria have won their last five away games in the Nations League.
- Austria have now scored in their last eight matches in this competition.
- Arnautović is now one appearance shy of Austria's second most-capped player Aleksandar Dragović (100) and one goal behind the nation's second leading goalscorer Johann Krankl (34).
- Croatia had won each of their previous five international matches between these teams.
- The Vatreni have now conceded two or more goals in eight of their last nine Nations League matches.
- Croatia failed to score for the first time in nine Nations League outings.
Croatia: Ivušić; Juranović, Pongračić, Ćaleta-Car, Sosa (Barišić 46); Brozović; Pašalić (Vlašić 58), Kovačić (Oršić 71); Majer (Modrić 58), Kramarić (Budimir 58), Brekalo
Austria: Lindner; Danso, Trauner, Wöber (Friedl 77); Lainer (Trimmel 46), Laimer, Sabitzer, Schlager, Weimann (Baumgartner 72); Arnautović (Seiwald 46), Onisiwo (Gregoritsch 46)
What happens after the UEFA Nations League group stage?
The four group winners in League A will advance to the knockout finals with, in principle, one appointed as hosts. The semi-finals will be played on 14 and 15 June 2023, with the final and third-place play-off to follow on 18 June
The teams finishing fourth in the groups in Leagues A will be relegated to League B for the 2024/25 edition.