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Kuhn makes winning start

Murat Yakin (number 4) and Johann Vogel (6) fight Austria's Ronald Brunmayr for the ball


Switzerland's sixth football coach in six years has got off to a winning start, with Köbi Kuhn leading the national side to a 2-1 away win in Wednesday's friendly match against Austria.

Goals from Johann Vogel and Hakan Yakin ensured victory for the Swiss - the country's first win over their Austrian neighbours for almost exactly 11 years.

As part of the launch for the two countries' joint bid to host the 2008 European Championships, Wednesday's match threatened to turn into a farce when a power failure plunged the Ernst-Kappel stadium into near darkness for almost half an hour.

But just as the crowd began to jeer, the floodlights came back on and the game was able to begin, albeit 25 minutes late.

Once the electricians had earned their wage bills, it was the turn of Switzerland's footballers to shine. With an impressive first half performance, Kuhn's men controlled the midfield, exploited the Austrian flanks and took a deserved tenth minute lead with a wonder goal from Vogel.

Shortly after Alex Frei had rattled the Austrian bar with a long-range shot which was subsequently ruled offside, Vogel went one better - picking up on a pass played back from Murat Yakin before smashing the ball from well outside the area past a stranded Franz Wohlfahrt in the Austrian goal.

In the moments that followed, the home side were all too often caught napping in the centre of the pitch and with Switzerland continuing to press forward, their European bid partners were forced to take what chances they could on the break.

Even then it wasn't until the 28th minute that Swiss keeper and captain Marco Pascolo had to make his first save - comfortably holding a powerful strike from Austrian captain Andreas Herzog.

Despite having earlier billed the match as an opportunity to see all his players in action ahead of September's vital game against Yugoslavia, Kuhn was understandably reluctant to make too many changes once half time came around. While Austria coach Otto Baric took the chance to bring on four new players, Kuhn introduced only two - Sunderland defender Bernt Haas and Bayern Munich midfielder Ciriaco Sforza.

At first Kuhn's caution paid off with Switzerland continuing to dominate and Austria still struggling to find their rhythm. But then, exactly on the hour mark, a rare mistake from Pascolo allowed the Austrians back in the game.

The FC Zurich keeper seemed to have all the time he needed to deal with a speculative long-range strike from Herzog, but somehow allowed the ball to squirm beneath his body and into the net.

To Switzerland's credit the spell that followed that lapse was their best of the night. Substitute Austrian keeper Alex Manninger had to make two good saves within six minutes, first palming away a clever chip from Sforza, then somehow smothering a point blank strike from Alex Frei.

Switzerland's renewed vigour was to find its reward though. With just 16 minutes remaining Sforza curled in a perfect high ball for Hakan Yakin to head in past Manninger from off the Austrian post.

The home team still had their chances to get back on level terms. Clearly the best Austrian on the pitch, Herzog threaded a pass through to Roman Wallner in the 82nd minute but the Rapid Vienna player fired narrowly wide. With just a minute left of play, Herzog himself dug out a half chance, but was only able to crash his shot into the side netting.

Seconds later the Swiss team and their new coach were able to celebrate a win which should give a massive boost in confidence ahead of September's World Cup qualifiers.

The need to win the first of those encounters against Yugoslavia on September 1 was underlined by the news that the Yugoslavians had also won on Wednesday, beating the Faroe Islands 2-0 to go above Switzerland in the qualifying group.

by Mark Ledsom, Vienna

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