Rapid cruise into Europa League Group Stage despite home defeat
It was a changed Rapid line up that took to the field in their away strip for the second leg of their UEFA Europa League play-off against AS Trencin. Max Hofmann, Stephan Auer, and Arnor Traustason came into the starting eleven, whilst the likes of Stefan Schwab and Thomas Schrammel were rested on the bench.
Having recorded a punishing 4:0 away win in the first leg, Rapid got the game under way with a swagger with all the pressure more or less lifted. Thomas Murg played in Joelinton, who showed good strength to hold off his marker before testing the Trencin goalkeeper (3.). The Brazilian then went close with a header as Rapid set the early tempo.
However, it was the guests who went ahead against the run of play: Rapid were punished for some casual defending when Lawrence burst into the box and beat Novota with an unstoppable low bullet of a shot - 0:1 (8.). The Green & Whites responded by getting back on the ball and pushing the opposition deep into their own penalty area, but the final pass remained elusive. The Slovak opposition, by contrast, were having fewer problems finding the killer ball and went two up after the half hour mark when Paur got on the end of a cross in the Rapid penalty area, placing his header back in the direction the ball had come, off the foot of the post and into the net - 0:2 (35.). Half time arrived with all in Green & White grateful for the stunning performance in Slovakia that had afforded them such a large margin for error.
Stefan Schwab came on for Murg during the break, whilst not long after the restart Trencin were reduced to ten men when Janco picked up a second yellow card for a foul on Grahovac. The chances starting coming for the Hütteldorfers, but the ruthless streak in front of goal so evident in recent matches was absent. Mario Pavelic unleashed a fierce drive, whilst a counter attack nearly produced a goal as Schaub fed the ball into Traustason, who got too much elevation on his shot and comfortably cleared the crossbar (70.). With the game winding down to its inevitable conclusion there was a bright moment for the Green & White fans: Captain Steffen Hofmann came on as a late sub after having finally overcome an injury sustained in an early cup match. The game finished 0:2 on the night, 4:2 on aggregate, and despite suffering a minor scare Rapid's performance in the first leg against the Slovak double winners had ensured the hard work was already done.
SK Rapid - AS Trencin 0:2 (0:2)
Allianz Stadion, 21.200 Attendance, Ref Stavrev (MKD)
Goals: 0:1 Lawrence (12.), 0:2 Paur (35.);
SK Rapid: Novota - Pavelic, Dibon, M. Hofmann, Auer - Mocinic, Grahovac - Schaub (92./S. Hofmann), Murg (46./Schwab), Traustason (83./Schrammel) - Joelinton;
AS Trencin: Semrinec - Sulek, Udeh, Klescik, Holubek (84./Halgos) - Ket (64./Madu), Lawrence - Paur, Janco, Bala (79./Prekop) - Janga
Yellow Cards: Schaub; Bala, Paur, Holubek
Y/R Card: Janco (53./Trencin);