Late drama in Wolfsberg sees two points dropped
Zoran Barisic's starting line up in Carinthia showed two changes to the side that had started in Vienna against Red Bull Salzburg last time out: Stephan Auer made a welcome return to first team action after a long lay off in place of the injured Mario Pavelic; whilst Spaniard Tomi came in up top for Matej Jelic. Other than that it was a familiar looking Hütteldorfer line-up that would go in search of a maximum point haul to keep the pressure up on league leaders Salzburg.
The decision to start with Tomi in attack soon paid dividends for the Rapid trainer team as he was on hand to capitalize on a goalkeeping error from WAC custodian Kofler, bundling the ball home from close range after the WAC goalie had failed to deal with a cross from skipper Steffen Hofmann - 1:0 (14.)! Shortly afterwards Tomi looked odds on to double his tally, as he burst through on goal after robbing a WAC defender of the ball, but as he bore down on Kofler he got his angles all wrong, dragging a strangled left footed shot past the post.
With the early one goal cushion Rapid started playing a classic counter attacking style, allowing the home side plenty of possession which they failed to turn into meaningful chances. By contrast, Rapid were looking sharp and threatening when launching counters and should’ve doubled their advantage through Steffen Hofmann. On his 500th competitive appearance for the club Hofmann found himself in a glorious position inside the penalty area to the right side of the goal, but with just Kofler to beat he came out second best as the home side's stopper saved the ball with his legs (41.). But the Green & Whites duly added a second that their dominance had deserved: Stephan Auer slid the ball into Louis Schaub on the right hand corner of the WAC penalty area, where Schaub steadied himself, and – with the help of a slight deflection – bent a superb shot beyond Kofler and into the far corner - 2:0 and Rapid seemingly cruising to victory!
Late, Late Drama
A coming together between Kofler and Stephan Auer ended with the WAC goalie having to depart proceedings early and Auer bleeding profusely from his head. Luckily, with the aid of a rather large bandage around his head, the Rapid full back was able to continue. Florian Kainz tested the newly arrived WAC goalkeeper, but Christian Dobnik proved up to the task, pushing Kainz's effort round the post and out to safety. Just after the hour mark Steffen Hofmann was also forced off with a knock, with Deni Alar coming on in his place; whilst Zoran Barisic also sent on Jelic in place of Tomi as the Green & Whites went in search of the killer third.
With Sonnleitner marshalling a rock solid defence the Huetteldorfers moved up through the gears and began to boss the game more and more. Matej Jelic came within the width of the crossbar of getting his seventh of the season, as he headed Grahovac's cross downwards into the ground before seeing it bounce agonizingly up and onto the crossbar. It was a real slice of bad luck for Jelic who had done everything right. It took until the final ten minutes before Wolfsberg started to look capable of ruffling a hitherto untroubled Rapid defence, and their late pressure instantly paid off: after saving well from Huettenbrenner, Richard Strebinger was powerless to stop Issiaka Ouedraogo from the resulting corner, as the ball dropped to the WAC striker who finished an easy chance from close range - 2:1 (82.) and incredibly Wolfsberg were still in with a chance of an undeserved point.
As the game moved into injury time it looked as if a late counter would seal the points for Rapid, as Kainz burst through on goal, squared to Deni Alar who looked odds on to sweep the ball into a virtually unguarded net, but the substitute dallied on the ball, allowing a WAC defender to get back and snuff out the danger. It was a robust challenge on Alar that could have yielded a penalty, but nonetheless it was a golden opportunity to seal the points. Then – as so often in football – the Green & Whites were cruelly punished: in the 93rd minute: from a corner the home side broke, worked the ball to Schmerböck in the left hand side of the Rapid box who arrowed home a low shot across Strebinger and into the far corner - 2:2 (93.). It was an incredibly disappointing end to a good performance that will feel more like a defeat than a hard won away day point.