26.11.2015 23:02
Team, UEFA Europa League

Battling Rapid slip to narrow defeat in Spain: 0:1 against Villarreal

The context in which Thursday's match against Villarreal in El Madrigal unfolded was clear: victory in Plzen had already booked safe passage to the knock-out rounds for the Hüttledorfers, whilst Minsk's victory over the Czech's in the day's early kick-off ensured that Villarreal joined Rapid in the next round. It would be easy to suggest that a game with nothing riding on it in terms of qualification make be lacking in tempo and intensity, but that wasn’t how Rapid were approaching the game, as underscored by Christopher Dibon prior to kick-off: "Rapid are not here on holiday, but rather to use the chance to measure ourselves against a top side."

Unfortunately Christopher Dibon was at the centre of attention not long after kick-off: following a duel with Roberto Soldado, Dibon fell to the floor in a crumpled heap. Clearly in a lot of pain, it quickly became clear that the reliable defender would be able to play no further part in the game. Initial diagnosis suggests that Christopher may have sustained ligament damage in his ankle.  

Max Hofmann was brought into the action, slotting in alongside Mario Sonnleitner in a game that took a little while to get going, with Villarreal shading the early exchanges. Steffen Hofmann drew the first save of note from either keeper, forcing Barbosa to turn a well struck free-kick over the bar (23.). Suddenly Rapid built some momentum and began forcing the Yellow Submarine back into its own half. The next Green & White shot on target arrived via a long range effort from Flo Kainz that again drawing a save from home keeper Barbosa (33.). The half closed with Rapid playing some good possession football that ensured their illustrious hosts had to work hard to get any joy from the match. However, clear cut chances failed to materialise for either side in the closing stages of the half and the whistle went the deadlock still intact.


The second period ushered in a spell of ascendency for the hosts. Just minutes after the restart Soldado latched onto a ball in behind the Rapid defence but dragged his shot wide of the far post (48.). Just seconds later Soldado could've given his side the lead again but he failed to capitalise on sloppy play in the Hütteldorfer defence as he missed the target from a very presentable position (49.). The pressure continued to mount as Jan Novota was called into action and produced an excellent save, the rebound from which was hit against the crossbar by Soldado (58.).

Unfortunately our Number 1 followed Dibon onto the treatment table after injuring his shoulder in producing the smart low save. Richard Strebinger come on in his place, and immediately exuded an air of authority after cleaning up some dangerous crosses into the box. Rapid again began to turn the tide and re-assert themselves on their opponents; but it was the Spaniards who continued to create the better openings. Castillejo went close with a long range effort (72.) before the pressure finally told: minutes into the Rapid-Viertelstunde Bruno Soriano was on hand to pounce on a loose ball following a corner, guiding it low into the bottom left hand corner with a composed finish - 1:0 (78.). Rapid responded quickly and nearly found an equaliser, but Stangl's effort on the turn rolled agonisingly wide of the post after he had been found by a smart pass from Flo Kainz (80.). In injury time Stangl was again causing problems for Villarreal, but his header from a corner was well dealt with by Barbosa (94.).

With the chance went Rapid's last hopes of salvaging their hitherto unbeaten record in the Europa League group stage. Attention now turns back to the Bundesliga and the trip to Vorarlberg to face Altach on Sunday.



UEFA Europa League:

Villarreal CF - SK Rapid 1:0 (0:0)
El Madrigal, 15.000 Attendance, Ref Raczkowski (POL)

Goal: 1:0 Soriano (78.);

Villarreal: Barbosa - Rukavina, Gaspar, Ruiz, Costa - Castillejo (83./Nahuel), Soriano, Dos Santos (73./Trigueros), Suarez - Soldado, Bakambu (52./Samuel);

SK Rapid: Novota (61./Strebinger) - Pavelic, Sonnleitner, Dibon (6./M. Hofmann), Stangl - Petsos, Schwab - Schobesberger, S. Hofmann, F. Kainz - Prosenik (86./Jelic);

Yellow Cards: Costa, Soriano, Ruiz; M. Hofmann, Sonnleitner;