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Sports

Austria's Last Minute Penalty Dashes Poland’s Hopes

With 15 seconds to go, Austria's eleventh hour penalty secured a draw with Poland on Thursday, reducing the likelihood Poland qualifies, but not completely ruling it out.

A Polish fan with a child on his shoulders

Polish fans were crushed after Austria's last-gasp goal

Ivica Vastic scored from the penalty spot in stoppage time to give Austria a 1-1 draw Thursday against Poland in Group B of Euro 2008.

The result ensured Croatia a place in the quarter-finals as winners of the group with one match still to play.

Poland looked to be on the way to victory thanks to a first-half goal from Roger Guerreiro.

The Brazilian-born attacking midfielder who only obtained Polish citizenship in April, scored from close range in the 30th minute after Austria had squandered a series of chances.

Martin Harnik had an excellent chance to open the scoring in the 13th minute as he found himself one-on-one with Polish goalkeeper Artur Boruc, but the Celtic custodian got the better of him.

Two minutes later Harnik had another chance, before Christoph Leitgeb had another one-on-one with Boruc and again the keeper could not be beaten.

Against the odds

Unexpectedly, Poland suddenly were ahead.

Austrian coach Josef Hickersberger said that it was a situation that often happened.

"You create several chances, but fail to score them, but then it is the other side that scores," he said.

Four minutes after the re-start Austria had a penalty appeal turned down by English referee Howard Webb who ruled that Andreas Ivanschitz had not been pulled down in the area.

In injury time Austria received a freekick in midfield which Webb decided should be retaken after it had been cleared. The ball was floated into the area, where Mariusz Lewandowski pulled down Sebastian Proedl.

This time Webb pointed to the spot and Vastic finally beat Boruc.

In doing so, he became the oldest player in the history of the competition to score a goal at the finals.

Feeling cheated

Polish fans

Vastic celebrates after his penalty goal

Poland's Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker criticised Webb for awarding the spot kick.

"I did not see a penalty -- did you?" he asked journalists after the match.

"First he had the free-kick repeated for a situation that you have hundreds of times in games. The he gives a penalty for a wrestling situation that you also have all the time. Of course we feel cheated."

He said that he did not believe that his team still had a chance to stay in the competition.

"We deserved better because we are a good side," he said. "If we had won, I would have thought we still had a chance."

Other matches

Croatia's head coach Slaven Bilic, center, reacts with his staff after Croatia defeated Germany 2-1 during the group B match in Klagenfurt, Austria, Thursday, June 12, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland.

Croatia was jubilant

Croatia defeated Germany 2-1 earlier in the evening and now can't be caught at the head of the group.

They have six points, with Germany on three and Poland and Austria with one apiece.

Austria will have to beat Germany in Vienna on Monday to have any chance of qualifying, while Poland will need to beat Croatia the same evening in Klagenfurt.

Hickersberger said that playing against Germany would be a terrific experience. "I know Germany very well. Playing against them is always something special."

He dismissed comparisons with the match between the two sides at the 1978 World Cup finals, which Germany needed do draw to advance to the Play-Off for third place, but which Austria won.

"That is not an issue at all. We just want to play well and will not be thinking about what happened 30 years ago," he said.

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