UEL: Dominant Rapid denied deserved victory
In front of 22.200 - 200 of which had made the trip from Italy - a re-invigorated Rapid side took to the field, showing the confidence, power and slickness that had been sorely absent in recent outings. The highly rated and dangerous Italian outfit US Sassuolo, incidentally making their first foray into European football in the club's history, could count themselves fortunate to be only one behind as the game reached the half hour mark. The Rapid pressure had begun direct from kick-off: in the first minute Joelinton had unleashed a shot on the Italians' goal, which keeper Consigli did well to repel (1.).
The next attack resulted in a Schwab effort forcing a corner, and from the set piece the deadlock was broken: a swinging ball reached Mario Pavelic, whose blocked attempt fell to the feet of Louis Schaub. Schaub added to his growing reputation on the continent and fantastic record in European football, as he slammed the ball home right footed from close range to give Rapid a deserved early lead - 1:0 (7.). Schaub was clearly in the mood as he then weaved past two players only to fire a shot over the bar (9.). It would have been a fine goal from the diminutive forward, who sparkling footwork had deserved better. Schaub then turned provider for Murg, who again stung Consigli's palms (12.). It seemed but a matter of time until the crucial second would arrive.
At the other end of the pitch Sassuolo finally registered themselves as an attacking force, as a neat one-two on the edge of the area played Ragusa into a decent shooting position (16.). Strebinger then played sweeper-keeper, rushing off his line to put an end to a dangerous looking move as Politano sought to exploit space behind the Rapid defence (21.). But after a mini spell of Sassuolo pressure, Rapid again took a grip on proceedings: Mario Pavelic's shot missed the target by a matter of inches (29.), before Murg out foxed his marker, leaving him for dead before snatching at his shot and putting it over (34.). It was a moment of magic from Murg, and would've capped a fine half for the Hütteldorfers. The spectacular football continued to flow though, and just minutes before half time an eye catching overhead kick from Joelinton perfectly connected with a cross, with the ball going just over the bar (41.).
It had been a terrific display from Mike Büskens' side, with the only negative for the Rapid Trainer being the slender nature of the lead.
Centre back Christoph Dibon failed to emerge for the second period owing to a muscle complaint, in his stead came Max Hofmann. The opening phase of the half saw a committed Green & White eleven looking to stamp a defensive solidity into their game. With Rapid tackling harder and winning more second balls, the defensive platform was in place and opportunities to go further ahead continued to materialise. A good move involving Traustason and Murg resulted in a shooting chance for the latter, but the effort was too weak to trouble the guests' goalie (52.). The Italians still carried an intermittent threat, as evidenced by Defrel drawing a superb save out of the diving Strebinger (58.). But with the Hütteldorfers firmly in the ascendency, an equaliser came out of nothing. An innocuous cross was played into the middle of the penalty area, where Thomas Schrammel seemed to misjudge his header as the ball skipped up unexpectedly off the surface. Schrammel and his team mates could only watch on in horror as the ball looped into the far corner to hand the Italians a way back into the game - 1:1 (66.).
As the game moved into the Rapid-Viertelstunde Matej Jelic came off the bench to make his long awaited come back from a lengthy injury lay off. It was the Croats first competitive appearance of the season. But a fresh injury then struck: with no contact from an opponent, Christoph Schösswendter pulled up injured, but was forced to play out the final minutes as Rapid had already made three substitutions. Srdjan Grahovac was drafted into a make shift back four as the Hütteldorfers were forced to finish the match effectively as ten men. Despite the latest set back they still managed to exert pressure on Consigli's goal, but a late spate of corners and crosses failed to yield a winner.
On the balance of play Rapid will be disappointed with a draw, but with Group F still wide open the performance will have given all in Green & White belief that they are capable of going to Italy and getting a positive result next time out.
UEFA Europa League, Matchday 3:
SK Rapid - US Sassuolo 1:1 (1:0)
Weststadion, 22.200 Attendace, Ref Hugo Miguel (POR)
Goals: 1:0 Schaub (6.), 1:1 Schrammel (66./ET);
SK Rapid: Strebinger - Pavelic, Schößwendter, Dibon (46. M.Hofmann), Schrammel - Mocinic, Schwab - Murg (64. Grahovac), Schaub, Traustason (73. Jelic)- Joelinton;
US Sassuolo: Consigli - Lirola, Antei, Acerbi, Peluso - Mazzitelli, Magnanelli, Pellegrini - Politano (87. Adjapong), Matri (78. Ricci), Ragusa (58. Defrel);
Yellow Cards: Murg;