The match against Ried represented the end of an era for the club: midfield rock Stefan Kulovits along with Markus Katzer and Markus Heikkinen all featured for the last time in Green & White, and got the fitting send off their efforts down the years have richly merited. President Rudolf Edlinger came onto the field to lead the praise for the trio, who were showered with applause from the stands for all they have contributed to this famous club's history. It was an emotional scene, and one or two tears were shed both in the stands and on the pitch. THANK YOU "Kulo", "Mecky" and "Mika" and all the best for your new challenges ahead.
All three were present for one final time in the starting eleven against SV Ried. Whilst Rapid had already secured third place and European football, the men from Austria's Innviertel still had an outside chance of grabbing a Europa League qualifying spot: three points in Hütteldorf and favors from elsewhere could see Ried leap into European action. With this in mind an offensive Ried started the game and looked to get their noses in front early, but Jan Novota was alert to Meilinger's dangerous fee kick (7.). Rapid's creative passing patterns and positive football were also baring fruit in the final third: excellent close control from Louis Schaub in the penalty area saw him create a yard of space despite being closely marked, but his snap shot went just wide of the far post (15.). Just minutes later though Terrence Boyd robbed a Ried defender of the ball, sprang forwards and played in Schaub with an excellent reverse pass. The youngster wasn't to miss out again as he coolly slotted the ball between Ried goalkeeper Gebauer's legs to put Rapid 1:0 ahead (19.). With half time approaching Zulj went close with a presentable headed chance for the visitors, but Rapid were firmly in the ascendancy as the half time whistle blew.
Rapid picked up where they left off after the break and their incisive football paid immediate dividends: Domink Starkl picked out the unmarked Schaub on the right hand side of the area, who shifted the ball onto his favored left foot before firing an unstoppable low drive past Gebauer at the near post - 2:0, Rapid and the victory was within touching distance (48.). The goal hammered the final nail into the coffin of the visitors European ambitions and they were now visibly deflated. A party atmosphere began to sweep over Hütteldorf: Rapid easily controlled possession, with every touch from midfield anchor Kulovits being roundly cheered on the terraces. Zoran Barisic then began to ring the changes: youngsters Eldis Bajrami, Lukas Denner and Maximilian Hofmann came on to sample first team action, while Markus Katzer and Stefan Kulovits departed to minute long standing ovations. The influential Dominik Starkl was the third player to be withdrawn.
Bajrami passed up the chance to make it a dream debut when he came out second best against Gebauer in the 85th minute, but the third goal wasn't long in coming. Marcel Sabitzer played US striker Boyd in behind a beaten Ried defence and the hitman brought down the curtain on the season in spectacular fashion, smashing the ball past Gebauer to send the Hanappi into further celebrations. "Mika" Heikkinen then received his own standing ovation of sorts – the fin departed proceedings a couple of minutes early after picking up a red card for a foul on Vastic (90.). It might not have been the expected way of receiving his own round of applause - but richly deserved non the less.
Rapid ended the 2012/13 season third in the league and with an excellent victory. All the coming fixtures and news throughout the pre-season can found here at www.skrapid.at! Firstly though, we'll all take time to reflect on what has been another rollercoaster season in Green & White. Take care and we'll see you again soon - RAPID!
tipp3-Bundesliga, 36. Runde:
SK Rapid - SV Ried 3:0 (1:0)
Hanappi-Stadion, 12.200 Attendance, Referee D. Ouschan
Goals: 1:0 Schaub (20.), 2:0 Schaub (49.), 3:0 Boyd (88.);
SK Rapid: Novota - Trimmel, Heikkinen, Pichler, Katzer (90./Denner) - Kulovits (92./M. Hofmann), Wydra - Sabitzer, Schaub, Starkl (74./Bajrami) - Boyd;
SV Ried: Gebauer - Hinum, Reifeltshammer, Karner, A. Schicker - Ziegl - Walch, Zulj, Gartler, Meilinger (66./Möschl) - Hammerer (58./Vastic);
Yellow Cards: Boyd, Schaub; Karner, Meilinger, Zulj;
Red Card: Heikkinen (92.);