Patient display yields victory over Minsk
Thursday's Europa League match against Dinamo Minsk was staged in neighbouring Borisov, a good hour from the Belarussian capital. Just over a third of the seats in the 15,000 capacity arena were occupied, with the 500 travelling fans from Vienna out singing their hosts to create a home atmosphere for the Green & Whites. It was during the second half that Rapid capitalised on their magnificent travelling support, stepping it up a gear and taking the game away from their opponents.
There was positive news with regards Zoran Barisic's line-up prior to kick off: Louis Schaub had made a quicker than anticipated return to fitness having sustained an injury away to Amstetten to take his place in the starting eleven. And it was Schaub who had the most influence over early proceedings, as he fired off the first shot of the evening (14.), before Flo Kainz also had a sight of goal but the winger sent his effort over the crossbar (22.). The hosts then managed to carve out a golden opening, but with Beciraj clean through on goal, Jan Novota used all his nous to narrow the angle, eventually forcing the Minsk man to strangle his shot and pull it wide of the target (24.). The first half in general though proved to be a cagey affair, with Dinamo sitting deep and challenging Rapid to find a way through. The Hütteldorfers did nearly find the correct answer as Kainz sent a low cross into the box and Jelic turned the ball onto the post with the home goalie beaten (40.). On the stroke of half time Louis Schaub worryingly crashed to the floor with no contact from an opponent and had to be taken off. Philipp Schobesberger came on in his place
Steffen Hofmann gives Rapid deserved lead
At the start of the second half another glorious chance fell to Jelic, who, after good work from Mario Pavelic, failed to get his shot on target from a very promising position (49.). It looked like a goal was in the offing for the Green & Whites, and within ten minutes of the restart the pressure being exerted on the Minsk defence eventually paid off: Stefan Schwab, boosted by his first call up to the senior national team, played an inviting ball into the penalty area where it was met by Steffen Hofmann, who unleashed a beautiful shot from the edge of the box that sailed straight into the far corner - 1:0 (54.)!
The goal further increased Rapid’s already burgeoning confidence, and also provided a shot in the arm for the match as a spectacle in general, as Minsk were now forced to come forwards in search of a reply. As they did so, Rapid looked to use the newly created space in the attacking third. They nearly added a second when Schobesberger picked out Kainz, who just got his angles wrong with an attempted volley (70.). The hosts then came perilously close to an equaliser, but Udoji’s long range effort rebounded off the aluminium of Jan Novota's goal (74.). As the game entered the Rapid-Viertelstunde the Hütteldorfers composed themselves, got their foot on the ball and largely killed off their opponents with some effective and mature possession football. With the hosts running out of ideas, Philipp Prosenik nearly made it two-nil as the game moved into injury time, but his creative effort went just the wrong side of the post (90.). The game was up for Minsk who failed to create any serious openings in the dying stages and Rapid were left to celebrate another outstanding win on the continent. The victory in Belarus means the Rapid now top both their Europa League group and the Austrian Bundesliga simultaneously.
UEFA Europa League, Match Day 2
Dinamo Minsk - SK Rapid 0:1 (0:0)
Borisow, Borisow Arena, 5.500 Attendance, Ref Kehlet (DEN)
Goal: 0:1 Steffen Hofmann (54.);
Dinamo Minsk: Gutor - Begunow (92./Weretilo), Politewitsch, Bangura, Witus - Adamovic (72./Rassadkin), Korsun, Woronkow (66./El Monir), Udoji - Beqiraj, Korytko;
SK Rapid: Novota - Pavelic, Sonnleitner, Dibon, Stangl - Grahovac, Schwab - Schaub (46./Schobesberger), S. Hofmann (76./Alar), F. Kainz - Jelic (86./Prosenik);
Yellow Cards: Korsun, Beqiraj;