Rampant Hütteldorfers ease relegation fears
After suffering defeat last time out in Mödling, the match against fellow strugglers WAC took on extra significance with Rapid dragged back into the relegation picture. Wolfsberg have been a team that have proved a thorn in Hütteldorfer' sides in seasons far more successful than the current one, so mental toughness and absolute concentration were required heading into the clash at the Allianz Stadium if Rapid were to finally start putting distance between themselves and the foot of the table. The team sheet showed a few changes to the side that had lost by the odd-goal to Admira; Matej Jelic came into the starting eleven and Louis Schaub was once again fit enough to take a place on the bench.
The 18,000 strong Penzinger crowd witnessed a hungry and focussed Green & White side fly out of the traps, and an opponent that had no answers to an intense early onslaught. Excellent pressing from Giorgi Kvilitaia saw the ball land at the feet of Matej Jelic; the Croatian deftly threaded a precise through ball back to his strike partner, who moved forward with the ball before beating the onrushing WAC goalkeeper with sweetly struck shot into the bottom left corner (8.) - 1:0! With Wolfsberg wobbling a dynamic Rapid went for the throat, and just three minutes later they doubled their advantage. The lively Matej broke into space on the right flank before threading a teasing low cross across the goalmouth. Thomas Murg failed to apply the killer touch at the near post, but Kvilitaia was on hand at the far to tap home into an open net from a couple of yards out - great football, two for Rapid, two for Kvilitaia (11.)! A superb header from distance from Jelic glanced just wide of the far post, denying the Croat what would have been a richly deserved goal to go with his two assists (15.).
To their credit, the shaken guests managed to steady the ship and keep a foothold in the match. Following a slight lull in the action the side from Carinthia did manage to threaten Tobias Knoflach's goal when Drescher headed over when well positioned (32.). But it always looked like Rapid had an extra gear should they require it, and in the lead up to half time they again turned on the style to threaten WAC's goal: Jelic just failed to get on the end of a teasing cross; whilst Mario Pavelic stung Kofler's palms with a fierce long-range shot (40.). Unfortunately, there was a nasty sight on pitch just before half time when Christoph Dibon dropped to the floor without any interaction with team mate or opponent. It appears that Christoph was suffering a delayed concussion after an earlier clash of heads. Mario Sonnleitner came on in his stead. We wish Christoph a speedy recovery!
The beginning of the second half was a stop-start affair, with lots of niggling fouls and interventions from the officials preventing the game from getting back into its flow. The hard-working Jelic was replaced by the enigmatic talent Joelinton of the half hour mark, and it didn't take long for Rapid’s samba star to make his mark: directly after being thrust into the action, the Brazilian drove forwards towards the penalty area with his momentum seeing him glide past three WAC defenders before curling a stylish side footed finish past Kofler and into the far corner of the net – 3:0 and the Green & Whites were cruising to a vital three points (63.)!
The pressure that had accumulated over the past weeks visibly vanished after Joelinton's strike, and the Allianz Stadium crowd witnessed a Rapid that had long been absent; a Rapid that played with verve, confidence and ability. Chances continued to flow: an excellent opportunity on the counter was lost due to indecision between Kvilitaia and Joelinton; before the Brazilian drew another save from the over-worked Kofler (70.). Further attempts on goal rained in, with Murg and Thurnwald peppering the WAC goal as Rapid searched for a fourth. The guests did come close to grabbing a consolation when Sanogo's header crashed into the post, but it was the Hütteldorfers who deservedly rounded off the day's scoring: an excellent cut-back form Auer found Stefan Schwab on the edge of the box, allowing the elegant midfielder to crown an excellent performance with a goal, as he swept the ball into the bottom left-hand corner - 4:0 (90.)!
The crucial three points lift Rapid away from relegation danger and provide some breathing space following a nerve wracking few weeks. Next week we travel to Salzburg to face table toppers Red Bull. RAPID!!
tipico Bundesliga, 32nd round:
SK Rapid - WAC 4:0 (2:0)
Allianz Stadion, 18.600 Attendance, Ref Schüttengruber
Goals: 1:0 Kvilitaia (8.), 2:0 Kvilitaia (11.), 3:0 Joelinton (63.), 4:0 Schwab (90.);
SK Rapid: Knoflach - Pavelic, Dibon (44./Sonnleitner), Wöber, Auer - Thurnwald, Szanto, Schwab, Murg - Kvilitaia (81./S. Hofmann), Jelic (61./Joelinton);
WAC: Kofler - Standfest, Sollbauer, Drescher, Baldauf - Sanogo (61./Jacobo), Rabitsch (46./Prosenik), Tschernegg, Klem - Hellqvist (80./Ouedraogo), Offenbacher;
Yellow Cards: Dibon; Sollbauer;