Robust Austria claim away point in Belgium

BRUSSELS, June 17 (Reuters) - Austria claimed a potentially important away point as they held Belgium to a 1-1 draw in their Group F European Championship 2024 qualifier in Brussels on Saturday, ending their hosts impressive winning run in the preliminaries.

The result meant Austria, who played a robust physical game, advanced to seven points from three games, three more than Belgium, who were playing their second group game, in the bid to qualify for next year's finals in Germany.

Austria took the lead from a 21st minute corner, swung over to the back post where Michael Gregoritsch struck the ball in. Belgium midfielder Orel Mangala stuck out his heel in a sloppy effort to block the ball and only succeeded in diverting it past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Romelu Lukaku, captaining Belgium in the absence of injured Kevin De Bruyne, had missed a good chance early in the second half but made up for it in the 61st minute as he was given time to turn and fire in the equaliser.

The goal extended Lukaku’s record for his country to 73 goals in 108 appearances, but the draw brought to an end Belgium’s run of 15 successive wins in the European Championship qualifiers, stretching back to 2015.

Courtois made a diving stop to deny Stefan Posch from restoring Austria's lead soon after, but the woodwork denied Belgium a stoppage-time winner as Youri Tielemans rattled the crossbar.

The match marked a disappointing home debut for Belgium's new coach Domenico Tedesco, whose side are next up away against Estonia on Tuesday.

Austria have a chance to keep up their group lead when they take on Sweden in Vienna on the same night. (Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Christian Radnedge)