FK Austria Wien coach Herbert Gager admits his youthful side have surprised even him despite shipping a last-gasp equaliser in a 3-3 draw against Club Atlético de Madrid.
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Coach Herbert Gager admitted his youthful FK Austria Wien side have surprised even him despite conceding a last-gasp equaliser against Club Atlético de Madrid on Tuesday.
"We have an extremely young team so I am surprised that we are better than our opponents," he said. "We were better than Porto, better than Zenit and today [against Atlético], while it was 11 versus 11, we were the better team; that surprises me. But age is not the most important thing in football; it is how you play and what you trust yourself to do. That shows you have quality."
Austria have been pretty successful on that front so far. Victorious over both FC Porto and FC Zenit in Group G, the Vienna outfit were 3-1 up after 25 minutes at home to Atlético. Dominik Prokop's dismissal for a second yellow card soon after half-time changed the complexion of the game, however. "The sending-off affected Austria's game a bit and we came into the second half with a different mentality," said Atlético boss Roberto Fresnedoso.
"I think we also had the initiative in the first half, but we were surprised by Austria's counterattacks. Their counterattacking was the best [weapon they had]. We knew that, we saw it on video, but they do it very well. It was what we expected: one team playing on the counter, which is what Austria did, and us taking more of the initiative. It was a hard-fought game, a high standard."
Sandro Widni's own goal midway through the second period reduced the arrears, laying the platform for Roberto Nuñez's 91st-minute equaliser. "Any goal you concede hurts," said Gager. "Atlético were certainly dominant with a one-man advantage, but there weren't many clear chances, almost none. The last goal was a fantastic move, a nice goal. But if the match had been 11 against 11 the whole way, there would only have been one winner."
There has been plenty for Austria to take away from their campaign to date, however, with Gager calling the experience "priceless". He added: "When you play against Porto, Zenit or Atlético, then it is something really special in terms of the athletic performance, the football itself. You need to give your best. Rubbing shoulders with players like these pushes our boys on."
Their progress has also caught the imagination of the Viennese public, with a sizeable crowd turning out at the Austria Arena. "The atmosphere was fantastic, it really gave me goosebumps," said Gager. "It is not normal to have 2,500 spectators at 11 in the morning here, and supporting the team so fantastically. That was really very nice."