James McClean sends Ireland top as Boys in Green beat Austria in Vienna

Ten points from 12 have been collected so far

James McClean, Ireland,

Ireland's James McClean celebrates scoring the opening goal of the game ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

James McClean was the hero as Ireland secured an excellent three points against group rivals Austria in the 2018 World Cup qualifier.

Not only was the 1-0 win an end to a decidedly poor record in Vienna but also means Martin O'Neill's side have collected 10 points from a possible 12 to go top of the qualifying group on the road to Russia in 2018.  

The first half was a cagey affair at the Ernst Happel Stadium with both sides mostly carving out half-chances rather than clear-cut opportunities.

The early pressure came from Austria in the opening minutes, although James McClean came relatively close with a deflected shot that went wide.

Player Ratings from Vienna: Read here.

Marc Janko then had a header comfortably saved by Darren Randolph at the other end.

Ireland then suffered a blow on 22 minutes when Glenn Whelan was withdrawn due to injury and replaced by David Meyler at the base of midfield.

Shortly after that, Janko blazed over from the edge of the box.

Austria came closer just after the half hour mark when Marko Arnautovic broke through into the box but Boys in Green captain Seamus Coleman got down to make a wonderful recovery tackle to snuff out the chance. 

Austria's Marcel Sabitzer with Wes Hoolahan of Ireland ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Arnautovic then set up Austria's best chance off the half which resulted in Marcel Sabitzer hitting the crossbar after lofting an effort over the on-rushing Randolph.

But Ireland's defence survived as they prevented Janko putting away the rebound.

But three minutes before the break, O'Neill's side came within a whisker of taking the lead away from home.

Good work on the left flank so Robbie Brady overlap and the Norwich player, who had found himself at left-back, whipped in a delicious ball into the box for Jon Walters.

But the Stoke striker could not convert the chance from close range as he failed to keep his shot down and watched it sail agonisingly over the bar.

But a couple of minutes after half-time, Ireland made no mistake as they started the second '45 brightly.

Ireland's James McClean scores the opening goal of the game ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

On the counter-attack, Wes Hoolahan received the ball in the centre of the pitch and swept a wonderful ball for McClean to take on the run.

Without breaking his stride, he broke into the box and stuck the shot between the goalkeeper's legs and into the back of the net for the lead goal and a third goal in two international games for the Derry man.

Shortly after, Ireland momentarily thought they were 2-0 up when Walters met Brady's in-swinging free-kick and found the net. But it was correctly ruled out for offside.

Austria's star man David Alaba had a couple of efforts from long-range - one from a free-kick - but did not find his mark in the lead up to the hour. 

On 71 minutes, Brady got a needlessly booking for kicking the ball away from an opponent and into the advertising hoardings that rules him out of next March's qualifier against Wales.

With four minutes to go, there was a nervous moment as a deep cross found Janko at the far post. But the Austrian striker misguided his header as it went well wide. 

And Ireland did hang on for a three points that will likely prove vital in the final reckoning.