Rapid bow out of Europa League as Valencia win in Vienna
The return leg of the UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie against Valencia represented a chance for a wounded Rapid to try and salvage some pride following the mauling dished out by the Spaniards in the Mestalla. A consolation victory would have been a worthy way to round off a campaign that had begun in the Champions League qualifiers and that had produced so many incredible moments and memories. A victory would also have been important for the Austrian UEFA coefficient and the Austrian Bundesliga's battle to earn an extra Champions League qualification birth for the 2017/18 season.
The starting line up contained two surprising names: with Stefan Stangl injured, young Max Wöber came into the team to make his competitive debut in Green & White; whilst for the first time since being injured in autumn Louis Schaub was fit enough to take a place on the bench. Steffen Hofmann and Flo Kainz were further absentees as Rapid took to the pitch in font of an impressive 40,000 fans in the Ernst Happel Stadium. As in the first leg, Rapid looked to get on the ball and dictate the tempo of the game, but again, as in the first leg, they were up against an opponent with a staggering array of quality all over the field. Nonetheless the Hütteldorfers looked to find a route to goal, but got very little change out of the Spaniards' defence. The confident young Woeber showed no signs of being overawed by the occasion, and managed to get on the ball and get a shot off on goal just after the half an hour mark (32.). In a half of little goal mouth action, an off-target shot from Rodrigo was the best the guests could muster.
Not long after the restart it looked like Rapid might finally get on the scoreboard, but Stefan Schwab's powerful header was well dealt with by the Valencia keeper (54.). But shortly afterwards the visitors took the lead when Rodrigo lobbed the stranded Richard Strebinger to make it 0:1 (59.). Minutes later any lingering Viennese hopes of avoiding a second defeat in the tie were crushed when Feghouli finished with aplomb to put his side two ahead (64.). Piatti added a third as Valencia hit Rapid with a swift counter attack (71.), before the Hütteldorfers nearly grabbed a consolation via a Thanos Petsos free-kick (77.). The rout was completed just a couple of minutes from time when Vezo made it 0:4 on the night and 0:10 on aggregate (88.). One bright spot for Rapid fans was the sight of Louis Schaub back on the pitch for the final ten minutes of the game.
Welcome back Louis - and farewell to the European stage! The return of Schaub could be very timely for Rapid as attention now firmly switches to domestic issues and the battle for the Bundesliga crown, beginning with the visit of Grödig on Sunday.
UEFA Europa League:
SK Rapid - Valencia CF 0:4 (0:0)
Ernst-Happel-Stadion, 39.800 Attendance, Ref Tagliavento (ITA)
Goals: 0:1 (59.) Rodrigo, 0:2 (64.) Feghouli, 0:3 (72.) Piatti, 0:4 (88.) Vezo;
SK Rapid: Strebinger - Pavelic, Sonnleitner, M. Hofmann, Wöber - Petsos, Grahovac - Murg (83./Schaub), Schwab, Alar (70. Schobesberger) - Prosenik (65./Jelic);
Valencia CF: Ryan - Barragan, Mustafi, Vezo, Gaya (46./Lato) - Fuego (79./Tropi), Danilo - Rodrigo, Feghouli, Piatti - Negredo (65./Mir);
Yellow Cards: Pavelic, M. Hofmann;