28.08.2010 10:47
Team

Another thrilla with the Villa

A packed Hanappi stadium set the scene for the Rapid Villa rematch. Rapid took to the field without the services of Nikica Jelavic, the star striker had earlier finalised his move to scottish outfit Glasgow Rangers. New signing Atdhe Nuhiu was thrust into the starting line up in the croatians place. Aston Villa travelled without several big names and also without the recently departed manager Martin O'Neill ahead of what promised be a very tense and close Europa League play off.Rapid manager Peter Pacult opted for a 442, showing positive intent with Hamdi Salihi partnering youngster Nuhiu in attack for the Hütteldorfers. An unfimiliar looking Villa side still consisted of star names such as Curtis Davies, England World Cup striker Emile Heskey and Stewart Downing.The game got under way with the Hannappi really jumping and buzzing, the Rapid fans living up to their tag as one of europe's finest sets of supporters. Villa made a reasonable start early on, winger Albrington looking lively and youngster Barry Bannan firing wide in the first 5 minutes. Rapid almost snatched the lead on 10 minutes. A dangerous cross from the left found Salihi, the striker upended by a harsh looking challenge before the ball fell to Nuhiu, his first time effort turned away by the acrobatic Guzun in the Villa goal. In the 12th minute it was Villa though who bagged a crucial away goal. Albrington got past Katzer and squared for Bannan to tap in from close range, the Villa man getting the benefit of a tight offside decision. The Hütteldorfers now had work to do to repair the early damage.Rapid nearly hit back in the 20th minute as firstly Hofmann arrived perfectly on a short Kavlak corner, his shot from the edge of the box turned behind for another corner. The resulting set play saw a great chance for Nuhiu, his close range downward header bounced agonisingly over the bar. Rapid had another good chance on 29 minutes as Markus Katzer got on the end of a Hofmann free kick, the left back just failed to get the necessary direction on his header with his back to goal. It was far from hopeless for Rapid, whom, to this point, had manufactured the better opportunities. Veli Kavlak was providing a consistent threat from the left flank.The green white's threat bore fruit in the 32nd minute as Hofmann's cross was met by Nuhiu with the deftest of headers and sneaked in at the back post. It was just reward for the Viennese and ignited the Hanappi into wild celebrations. The green whites followed up with more pressure, with a Hofmann free kick turned behind for a corner. The following set play saw the ball drop to the enigmatic Rapid skipper who hit the ball on the volley from 25 yards, his effort flashing narrowly wide of Guzan's upright. The visitors were rocking and struggling to produce attacking play since their early opener.As half time drew near Rapid went in search of the lead. On 41 minutes a dangerous Kayhan cross was nearly met by Nuhiu as it fizzed across the 6 yard box. Curtis Davies then brought down Salihi on the edge of the box to give Hofmann a fantastic shooting opportunity. The Rapid talisman bent an expert free kick around the wall and drew another excellent save from Guzan. The home side were now really ramping up the pressure, the English side were desparately counting down the minutes in search of the sanctury of the half time dressing room. The whistle duely came and the teams went back to the dressing rooms, Villa really looking like a boxer on the ropes.Rapid got the second half underway with the mighty support of the block west at their backs. Another one or two goals would give the Hütteldorfers just the boost they need ahead of next weeks return fixture in Birmingham. Salihi received a heavy blow from Guzman in the 53rd minute as he chased down a long Hedl clearance. Happily the striker rose to his feet and showed no ill effects from the heavy coming together. It was the men from Birmingham who made the more positive start to the half, pushing Rapid back and enjoying good possesion in and around the Hütteldorfers box. It was a time for cool heads for Rapid as they looked to regain the ascendency they had enjoyed in the latter stages of the first half.Just after the hour mark a cracking Kavlak long range drive stung Guzan's hands again. The winger was proving a great outlet for Rapid as they again looked to raise the tempo. A minute later the ball broke to Nuhiu on the edge of the box from a corner, the frontman unfortunately lifted his effort high into the stands. It was a good spell of pressure from the green whites who were really working their way back into the driving seat.Kayhan had been gradually growing in confidence during the game, making more and more inroads down the left. It was his defending that was tested in the 72nd minute however, the young full back provided excellent cover to sweep away a dangerous cross in front of his own goal. Pacult looked to freshen things up by introducing Gartler for Salihi with a little over 15 minutes left. The fleet footed attacker will be looking to stamp his authority on the team in coming weeks following Jelavic's departure to the SPL. Moments after his introduction, Gartler spurned a fantastic chance, baring down 1 on 1 with Villa keeper Brad Guzan. The Villa keeper snaffled the Rapid man's tame effort with a minimum of fuss. On 81 minutes Katzer nearly grabbed a vital second for Rapid, his header from Hofmann's free kick arrowed just wide of the target. With five minutes left on the clock, Peter Pacult threw on wild card Christoph Drazan in place of Hinum. The wide man has happy memories of playing Villa after putting in sterling performances in last seasons tie.Both sides appeared to run out of ideas in the closing stages and the Hütteldorfers were forced to settle for a draw. The English side will feel they have the advantage due to their away goal, but Rapid definitely created enough chances to show the tie is far from over. Attention now switches across the English channel for what could well be another glory night in green and white.SK Rapid - Aston Villa 1:1 (1:1)Hanappi-Stadion, 17.600, SR Hamer (LUX) Goals: Nuhiu (32.) bzw. Bannan (12.) SK Rapid: Hedl - Kayhan, Sonnleitner, Soma, Katzer - Hofmann, Heikkinen, Hinum (86. Drazan), Kavlak - Salihi (73. Gartler), Nuhiu Aston Villa: Guzan - Lichaj, Beye, Davies, Warnock - Albrighton (79. Weimann, 86. Osbourne), Reo-Coker, Bannan (74. Delfouneso), Hogg, Downing - Heskey Yellow cards: Kayhan, Soma bzw. Reo-Coker (gw)