Rapid brush aside Zhodino to secure place in play-off!
It was clear prior to kick-off that Torpedo Zhodino were going to sit in, defend deep and look to hit Rapid on the counter. The Belarussians lined up with seven deep lying midfielders and defenders, which made it anything but easy for the Green & White's creative sparks to manufacture openings. The going was tough, but doable: this scenario had been prepared for all week on the training pitch and with patience and resolve the Hütteldorfers had the necessary weapons to crack the opponents defence. Mike Büskens unsurprisingly went with an attacking line up: Arnor Traustason started the match, as did fellow new arrival Ivan Mocinic, who had passed a late fitness test. Louis Schaub, Thomas Murg and Joelinton were also in the starting 11, leaving the crowd under no illusions as to what sort of game the Hütteldorfers expected, and how they were going to respond.
The first moment of danger for Torpedo arrived when the forward thinking Rapid full-backs combined: A cross from the ever available Thomas Schrammel found its way to Mario Pavelic, who attempted a first time volley but failed to catch the ball cleanly (14.). Pavelic then almost turned provider for Stefan Schwab, who just failed to get on the end of his ball at the near post (17.). Rapid were looking to go a little longer with their passing than normal, as any intricate passing moves in the centre of the park were being swallowed up by a mass of white shirts.
Rapid continued to ramp up the pressure as the guests dropped deeper and deeper, virtually defending along the line of their own penalty area. The Green & Whites determination and work rate eventually lead to them snatching the lead on the night and in the tie overall: Schaub and Joelinton rescued what appeared to be a lost cause near the left corner flag, recycling possession into Thomas Murg in the penalty area. In turn Murg found Mario Pavelic, who gracefully guided the ball into the far corner well beyond the reach of the Torpedo keeper - 1:0 and the crucial breakthrough had arrived (27.)! With the defence now breached the Belarussian outfit began to lose shape and get dragged around by the Green & Whites incisive football and clever movement. Traustason and Murg went close (30., 34.) before the crucial second that offered protection against a possible away goal materialised: A perfectly weighted pass from
Stefan Schwab slid Thomas Schrammel in on goal behind the Zhodino right back. Schrammel's initial effort was kept out, but he managed to re-adjust his body, swiveling to turn the ball home with his weaker right foot - 2:0 and Rapid had secured a measure of comfort (37.)!! The 18,600 strong crowd roared their approval as the half time whistle went. With two goals arriving via the boots of the full backs, it was clear that Rapid's brave strategy had been richly rewarded.
The second half got under way with Murg drawing a smart stop from Torpedo goalie Fomichev with a shot from distance (49.). It looked like Joelinton might end the contest when Murg picked him out with a low cross, but the livewire forward failed on this occasion to bring the ball properly under control (52.).
As the half wore on there remained a glimmer of hope for the visitors, as despite Rapid's total dominance the third goal remained elusive. Stefan Schwab thought he had gotten his name on the scoresheet in the seventy-first minute, only for his shot to be scrambled away off the line. Just a minute later Schwab again had a golden opportunity after being set up by Philipp Schobesberger after a swift counter. Unfortunately, Schwab came out second best in his duel with Fomichev, who saved from the former Admira man to keep his side in the game (72.). Just sixty seconds later Schaub wove his way into the penalty area before being denied by Fomichev: Rapid were battering away on the door (73.). Chances continued to flow for the Green & Whites, but they had to wait until injury time for the third goal to arrive which their performance had richly merited: More quick incisive passing play saw the ball fed into the penalty area to the feet of Louis Schaub. With plenty of time to steady himself, Schaub picked his spot, curling a beautiful side footed effort into the far corner well beyond the reach of Fomichev – 3:0 and job done (92.)!
Rapid had professionally dispatched their opponent and can now look forwards to Friday’s draw for the UEFA Europa League play-offs knowing they have little to fear from any of the opposition joining them in the hat!
UEFA Europa League-Qualification, 2nd game:
SK Rapid - Torpedo Zhodino 3:0 (2:0)
Hütteldorf, 18.600 Attendance, Ref Roi Reinshreiber (ISR)
Goals: 1:0 Pavelic (26.), 2:0 Schrammel (36.), 3:0 Schaub (92.);
SK Rapid: Novota - Pavelic, Schößwendter, Dibon, Schrammel - Mocinic (80. Szanto), Schwab - Schaub, Murg, Traustason (68. Grahovac) - Joelinton (71. Schobesberger);
Zhodino: Fomitschew - Imerekow, Klopotski, Lutsewitsch, Tschelijadinski, Pankowets (46. Scherbo) - Afanasiew (66. Tschelijadko), Schapowal, Chachaturijan, Demidowitsch - Sagnijailow (57. Trapaschko);
Yellow Cards: Mocinic; Demidowitsch;