Narrow defeat at hands of champions
The clash of this round of Bundesliga fixtures pitted the Hütteldorfers against champions RB Salzburg. Leading up to the match it was clear that the game was going to be an intense affair: firstly, because clashes between Rapid and Salzburg always carry an extra intensity. Secondly, because the Green & Whites were looking for a three point haul to restore some pride and confidence after getting off to a shaky start in 2017. Thirdly, table toppers Salzburg were looking to strengthen their grip on first place while dealing a blow to their capital rivals. With 23,200 fans packing into the Allianz Stadium things got underway.
Unsurprisingly an uncompromising match unfolded from the whistle. Whilst chances were scarce in the opening stages of the contest, the full blooded nature of the game and commitment on show from both sides gave the onlookers plenty to get excited about. As both teams warmed to their tasks table placings soon became irrelevant as two old foes went at each other in time honoured fashion.
Despite Rapid's unsatisfactory league standing it was Damir Canadi's side who began to set the rhythm. Arnor Traustason fired just wide of the far post following a corner (17.), whilst Joelinton managed to get on the end of a difficult cross to place a header on target, but the Brazilian failed to generate enough power to trouble the Salzburg keeper (25.). On the half hour mark good work from Joelinton down the flank created a shooting opportunity for Mario Pavelic, who drew a smart stop from Salzburg custodian Walke. Disappointingly for the hitherto impressive Traustason, a hard tackle put a premature end to his afternoon, as he hobbled off the field to be replaced by Tamas Szanto.
The injury did little to disrupt Rapid's flow, and the Green & Whites continued to push and probe whilst the guests from Austria's Alpine region toiled in the final third. Andi Kuen was the next Hütteldorfer to try his luck, again drawing a save from Walke after receiving a smart ball from Louis Schaub (38.). Mario Pavelic was a constant thorn in the side of the Salzburg defense, and he again registered a shot on target in the 40th minute. On the stroke of half time Walke produced the save of the half to tip a stinging drive from Stephan Auer over the bar (44.). Despite going into the break with the deadlock still in tact, it was a solid first half performance from a Rapid side who had bossed the game and had looked the more likely team to get on the score sheet.
Ten minutes after the restart Rapid's profligacy in front of goal was almost punished when Laimer broke through the defence, only to be stopped in his tracks by excellent goalkeeping from Tobias Knoflach, who parried his attempt away to safety (54.). With Rapid just failing to hit the highs of the first half, the game went into something of a lull in terms of chances and during this phase of inactivity Salzburg stole ahead: stepping up from the edge of the area, Berisha curled a direct free kick beyond the reach of Knoflach to give Rapid that sinking feeling - 0:1 (71.). Just minutes later substitute Oberlin should've wrapped up the points for the guests, but somehow lifted the ball over the target with the goal at his mercy (74.).
The Rapid Viertel-Stunde was ushered in with a double substitution as Gio Kvilitaia and Thomas Schrammel were thrown on in an effort to force the equaliser. A series of corners, free kicks and crosses came into the Salzburg area as Rapid pushed and pushed for the all important goal, but unfortunately the deep lying Salzburg defence held firm. In injury time Oberlin again missed the chance to sew the game up after a mazy solo run, but in the end it was immaterial: Rapid couldn't find a way through to rescue a point and had to accept another defeat despite a much improved showing against a quality opponent.
tipico Bundesliga, 24th round:
SK Rapid - RB Salzburg 0:1 (0:0)
Allianz Stadium, 23.200 Attendance, Ref Hameter
Goal: 0:1 Berisha (71.);
SK Rapid: Knoflach - Dibon, Sonnleitner (76./Kvilitaia), M. Hofmann - Pavelic, Auer, Schwab, Kuen (76./Schrammel) - Schaub, Joelinton, Traustason (38./Szanto);
RB Salzburg: Walke - Lainer, Wisdom, Miranda, Ulmer - Schlager, Laimer, Samassekou, Lazaro (70./Oberlin) - V. Berisha - Hwang (82./Radosevic);