Joelinton fires Rapid into final!
After 12 years of pain on Wednesday night our side had a huge opportunity to finally reach the final of the ÖFB Samsung Cup. Standing between the Hütteldorfers and a shot at cup glory were First Division outfit LASK. Clearly, defeating the tradition-rich Linz club would be no easy task: LASK currently top their league and are 16 points clear of their nearest challengers; this is an opponent used to winning and having things their own way. The Block West played their part in creating an atmosphere befitting of the occasion, providing the players with an imperious choreography as both sets of players took to the pitch. For the Green & Whites, Arnor Traustason and Andi Kuen came back into the starting eleven.
But in a season full of drama this game was to be no exception, with LASK failing to read the Rapid script: the early stages belonged to the guests as Erdogan registered the first attempt of the game, lifting a header just over the crossbar (3.). Then Max Wöber survived a horror moment as he slipped whilst attempting to clear the ball, guiding it towards his own net. Thankfully Tobias Knoflach produced a good save to rescue Wöber from a second own goal in this season's cup run after the defender had put through his own net in the last round against St. Pölten (7.). LASK had come to the capital to attack, and the dangerous Erdogan again tested Knoflach with a decent snap shot (14.).
The next clear sight of goal also fell to the guests, this time on the half hour mark: a wayward attempt at a back-pass was collected by Gartner who bore down on the Rapid goal only to come out second best against an in-form Knoflach (30.). Rapid were in debt to their young goalie, and although the Green & Whites steadied the ship somewhat in the run up to half time, the first half performance was way below the standards expected of Austria’s most decorated club on such an important stage.
This was not lost on the players, who returned to the field early ahead of the restart in a show of eagerness and willingness to put things right. Philipp Malicsek replaced Steffen Hofmann at half time, whilst just minutes into the second period Stephan Auer came on in place of Andi Kuen. A visibly improved Rapid were matching their opponents in terms of effort and commitment, and were beginning to register themselves in the game as an attacking force. Thomas Murg fired off Rapid’s first decent effort on goal to underline the feeling that the moment in the game was swinging towards the Hütteldorfers.
Over 18,000 fans in the Allianz Stadium breathed a collective sigh of relief though on the hour mark, as a flat long range shot from Michorl crashed into the post, the rebound falling to Fabiano. Luckily for Rapid the Linz man fluffed his lines, gently rolling the ball into the arms of Knoflach. It was a let off for Rapid. Incredibly the game was then turned on its head: Murg fished the ball out of the air in the LASK penalty area before calmly slotting the ball into the far corner - 1:0 and Rapid had stolen ahead against the run of play!
With the minutes ticking down a nervous tension filled the Penzing air as Rapid looked to cling on to their unlikely lead. Just when it appeared that the Green & Whites had their opponents under control disaster struck: in injury time ex-Rapid man Rene Gartler received the ball in space in the penalty area with only Knoflach to beat, which he did to surely send the match into extra time: 1:1 (90.). But if any evidence was required that the Rapid spirit remains alive and well it was provided by Joelinton: a deep cross from Schwab wasn't dealt with by the Linz defence as the ball found its way to Joelinton; the Brazilian remained cool under pressure, slotting home to give Rapid an incredibly victory at the death - 2:1 the cup glory was in the bag!!
The net result of a chaotic finale in Hütteldorf? SK Rapid Vienna clawed their way into their first cup final appearance in 12 long years! On June 1, the boys will travel to Klagenfurt to take on RB Salzburg in a show piece final. The Green & Whites go into the match as outsiders, but when has the underdogs tag ever prevented Rapid Vienna from producing magical performances and upsets in the past?
SK Rapid - LASK 2:1 (0:0)
Allianz Stadion, 18.200 Attendance, Ref Jäger
Goals: 1:0 Murg (76.), 1:1 Gartler (91.), 2:1 Joelinton (93.);
SK Rapid: Knoflach - Pavelic, Dibon, Wöber, Kuen (53./Auer) - Schwab - Murg (88./Joelinton), Szanto, S. Hofmann (46./P. Malicsek), Traustason - Kvilitaia;
LASK: Pervan - Ranftl, Ramsebner, Luckeneder, Otavio - Riemann (70./Imbongo), Erdogan, Michorl, Rep - Fabiano (78./Raguz) - Gartler;
Yellow Cards: Kuen, Kvilitaia; Michorl, Ramsebner, Otavio