Late goals break away hoodoo
After having secured their Bundesliga status last time out against Sturm Graz, Rapid made the short trip to Burgenland to take on SV Mattersburg looking to right another couple of wrongs and - most importantly - to get some form and self-belief ahead of the cup final. The Hütteldorfers had failed to record an away victory in their previous ten attempts, so the trip to the Pappel Stadium represented another opportunity to pay back their long-suffering, loyal travelling support. And that was exactly what they did, running out 3:1 victors in a hugely entertaining game to record back to back victories.
As expected Giorgi Kvilitaia, Louis Schaub and Tamas Szanto were all unavailable for selection. Hence, Goran Djuricin - taking control of his first match since being appointed Head Coach on a full-time basis - brought Steffen Hofmann, Joelinton and Andi Kuen into his starting formation. It was also a big evening for Eren Keles, with the reserve striker earning himself a place on the bench.
The early minutes of the contest were a scrappy affair, but as the game warmed up the healthy 9,500 strong crowd were treated to an absorbing contest: Joelinton began searching for his range with the game's first attempt from distance (10.), before SVM's Atanga came close with a deflected free-kick (24.). But it was the Viennese Green & Whites who looked to have more about them, and who produced the more stylish passages of play, despite the hosts' ability to threaten the edge of the Rapid box through longer passing and a more direct philosophy. The injury curse that has been hanging over collective Hütteldorfer heads' in recent weeks struck again when Max Wöber was forced off after experiencing issues in his back. The move was largely precautionary though, with the injury hopefully not bad enough to preclude any possible involvement for Wöber in the forthcoming cup final. Mario Sonnleitner came on and slotted into the back four.
In the lead up to half time the game suddenly sprang into life: Mattersburg's Jano narrowly put a good header wide of the target (35.), before Hofmann, wearing the captain's armband, sought to reply with a typically well-crafted effort that just arched wide of the post (36.). Rapid ratcheted up the pressure as Thomas Murg drew a brilliant save from Mattersburg keeper Kuster (37.). With the home side's defence wobbling it looked like a goal was in the offing for Rapid and so it proved: Stefan Schwab slid a delicious defence splitting pass through to Joelinton, who didn't have to break stride before gathering in the ball, driving into the penalty area and hammering the ball past Kuster - 1:0 (38.)! However, Rapid celebrations were cut short as Mattersburg responded instantly: a back-pass to Tobias Knoflach resulted in an indirect free-kick being awarded; Maierhofer reacted quickest, slipping the ball to Höller who slotted home to bag his side a very curious equaliser (40.). The Mattersburg leveller was far from the last goal mouth action of the half: Mario Sonnleitner struck with the woodwork with a header from a Hofmann corner (42.); Joelinton again stung Kuster's palms from a tight angle (43.), before Farkas nearly stole a second for SVM when his rocket of a shot just narrowly went the wrong side of the upright (45.).
In the first few minutes of the second half Knoflach was called into action to deny Röcher, after the Mattersburg man was afforded space in the Rapid box to get himself on the end of a cross from Atanga (48.). Although the tempo dropped somewhat throughout the second period, chances continued to materialise and there was no shortage of entertainment for the large crowd. After surviving the scare, Rapid hit back: Stephan Auer had a great opportunity but couldn't connect with a teasing cross (57.), before Maierhofer headed over at the other end (61.).
With the game swinging from end to end it was Rapid who landed the knock-out punch: Steffen Hofmann slid a superb pass into substitute Arnor Traustason, who confidently stroked the ball into the corner to bring Rapid within touching distance of an elusive away victory - 2:1 (84.)! Just seconds later hearts were in mouths as Mattersburg nearly delivered a dose of the same medicine they had dished out in the first half, when Röcher fired the ball onto the crossbar with the rebound falling kindly for Rapid (85.). There was more drama to come, as from a searching cross from Schwab left-back Malic put through his own net to kill Mattersburg resistance and confirm a very welcome three points for Rapid - 3:1 (87.)!
The final round of Bundesliga matches take place on this coming Sunday as we welcome SKN St. Pölten to Hütteldorf. A win against our near rivals would put Djuricin's side on a nice little run of three confidence boosting victories ahead of the cup final showdown with RB Salzburg!
tipico Bundesliga, 35th round:
SV Mattersburg - SK Rapid 1:3 (1:1)
Pappelstadion, 9.500 Attendance, Ref Drachta
Goals: 0:1 Joelinton (38.), 1:1 Höller (41.), 1:2 Traustason (84.), 1:3 Malic (88./Eigentor);
SV Mattersburg: Kuster - Farkas (71./Perlak), Malic, Ortiz, Novak - Jano, Erhardt (87./Bürger) - Höller, Atanga, Röcher - Maierhofer;
SK Rapid: Knoflach - Pavelic, Schösswendter, Wöber (28./Sonnleitner), Kuen (61./Schrammel) - Auer, Schwab - Thurnwald (65./Traustason), S. Hofmann, Murg - Joelinton;
Yellow Cards: Höller; Kuen, Schwab