29.09.2016 23:10
UEFA Europa League, Profis

Spirited defensive showing in the Basque country yields no rewards

The second match day of the UEFA Europa League group phase saw Rapid travel to the Basque country to face Athletic Bilbao. Given the quality of the opposition, Trainer Mike Büskens opted for an experienced and in-form line-up: As expected Thomas Murg missed out through injury, whilst Arnor Traustason had recovered in time to make the journey. Over forty thousand locals were in attendance in the Estadio Sam Mames, whilst a proud band of 900 Green & White supporters had made the trip from Vienna.

Having already had a nightmare experience on Spanish shores in European football this year, Rapid began the game compact and deep, taking up good defensive positions and showing total commitment as Bilbao bossed the ball in the opening stages. Exteberria tested Richard Strebinger from distance in the seventh minute, but a determined Hütteldorfer side was standing up to Bilbao’s early pressure and showed no signs of being ready to cave in under pressure.

Just before the half hour mark Rapid manufactured what would be a solitary chance in the first half: Joelinton latched onto a ball from the deep and made his way towards Bilbao keeper Herrerins' goal. Unfortunately, the Brazilian's attempted chip lacked the the required power and was easily gathered in by the Athletic goalie (28.). Just minutes later Richard Strebinger and the Rapid defence were breathing a sigh of relief when Alvarez’s header from a free kick hit the crossbar before rebounding to safety (30.).

Rapid's plan of capitalizing on mistakes and launching counter attacks began bearing fruit. Louis Schaub popped up in a dangerous position in front of the Basque side's goal, but he had more time than he realized and a lack of composure passed up the opportunity. On the stroke of half time a curious string of events unfolded: A long ball into the Rapid penalty area saw Strebinger clash in the air with Aduriz, with the ball ultimately ending up in the net. Referee Chapron initially awarded a goal, before discussions with his assistant lead to him changing his mind and awarding a penalty. Finally, the match officials came to the decision to award a free kick to Rapid which precipitated heated on pitch discussions, but the end result saw the sides go into half time with the deadlock still intact.



The second period fell into much the same pattern as the first, with Bilbao dominating the ball and Rapid content to defend deep and looking to spring counter attacks. Unfortunately, the Spaniards' pressure told on the hour mark: Rapid failed to clear their lines in the penalty area where the ball fell to Etxeberria, who slammed a vicious shot home via a deflection - 0:1 (60.). Bilbao almost added an instant second, but Richard Strebinger pulled off an incredible reaction save to deny Aduriz from point blank range after a chip into the box had alluded the Green & White defence (62.).

In an effort to get back into the game the Rapid bench made two changes, sending on Steffen Hofmann and Tamas Szanto (the latter for the injured Traustason). The game got niggly in the closing stages, with lots of breaks in play and small fouls setting the tone. The Hütteldorfers did manage to push their hosts back and threaten Herrerin's goal, as exemplified by a Thomas Schrammel cross that the Bilbao keeper did well to tip over the bar (75.). At the other end Strebinger came out on top in a one-on-one duel with Williams to ensure Rapid stayed in the game (88.), but a goal never materialized and a spirited performance from Mike Büskens' side went unrewarded.



UEFA Europa League, Match day 2:
Athletic Bilbao - SK Rapid 1:0 (0:0)
Estadio de San Mames, 35.000 Attendance, Ref Chapron (FRA)

Goal: 1:0 Etxebarria (59.);

Athletic Bilbao: Herrerin - De Marcos, Alvarez, Laporte, Balenziaga - Iturraspe (59./San Jose), Etxebarria (80./Rico) - Williams, Raul Garcia, Susaeta (59./Muniain) - Aduriz;

SK Rapid: Strebinger - Pavelic, Schößwendter, Dibon, Schrammel - Grahovac, Mocinic (67./S. Hofmann) - Schaub, Schwab, Traustason (72./Szanto) - Joelinton (86./Kwilitaia);

Yellow Cards: Alvarez; Schrammel, Dibon, Grahovac, Joelinton