Rapid go down to narrow defeat in Salzburg
On Saturday Rapid travelled westwards to take on champions elect Red Bull Salzburg in a dress rehearsal of the forthcoming ÖFB Samsung Cup final. A difficult assignment no doubt, but the Hütteldorfers could take heart from their 4:0 thrashing of WAC last time out as they looked for points to edge themselves towards safety as a largely forgettable league campaign winds down. Trainer Goran Djuricin opted to stay with the 4-4-2 formation that had served so well against Wolfsberg but had to make an enforced change to the line-up when Max Wöber experienced pain in the final training session of the week. With Christopher Dibon also ruled out owing to the ongoing effects of concussion, Christoph Schösswendter was drafted in to play alongside Mario Sonnleitner at the heart of the Rapid defence.
The Green & Whites sought to start the game on a positive, attacking footing, but the size of their task son became apparent as Salzburg's undeniable quality quickly shone through. Mario Pavelic's long range shot represented the only real assault on the hosts' goal that Rapid could muster in the first half (9.), whilst by contrast the effervescent RB attackers ensured a busy forty-five minutes for Tobias Knoflach: Laimer headed a cross just wide of the target (10.), whilst a Wanderson effort also narrowly missed the corner. Berisha then guided an effort onto the roof of the goal (17.) before Rapid managed to take the early sting out Salzburg and bring some stability and balance into proceedings.
It took Oscar Garcia's side a little while to build up the next head of steam, but it arrived in the final ten minutes of the half as Rapid put in some excellent backs-to-the-wall defending to make it through to half time with the deadlock in-tact. The onslaught was signalled when Knoflach produced a stunning stop to deny Wanderson, whilst Stephan Auer was on hand to lend his keeper the support he needed in blocking the follow-up shot from Lazaro (36.). Miranda was the next Salzburg player to chance his arm, but his well struck shot lacked the necessary precision to truly trouble Knoflach (38.). The final scare of a hectic period arrived via a Laimer header that was deflected behind for a corner (40.), but Rapid’s patched up defence had served Djuricin proud and seen them safely through to the break.
The crowd of 15,900 (boosted as always by a disproportionate amount of travelling Viennese) witnessed Salzburg continue to bang on the Rapid door as the second half got under way. With the Green & Whites again struggling to make attacking headway the Rapid bench reacted, throwing on Louis Schaub for his long awaited come back on the hour mark. And, almost as if reward for a sterling and brave defensive display, two great chances materialised: a spell of rare possession on the edge of the Salzburg box resulted in Tamas Szanto driving a venomous shot towards goal. Szanto's effort looked goal bound until a desperate intervention from a Red Bull defender blocked the ball and deflected it to Thomas Murg. With a decent amount of the goal to aim at from about 6 yards inside the penalty area, Murg unfortunately lifted his attempt over the bar (60.). Louis Schaub then reminded the Rapid fans just what they had been missing as from the right-hand by-line he weaved his way past a clutch of Salzburg defenders and into the box before getting just a little too much purchase on his left footed effort as he lifted the ball over the target (71.). Just as it appeared the Hütteldorfers were working their way into contention for an unlikely three points the hitherto brick wall erected at the other end of the field cracked: a cross from Ulmer from the left flank into the Rapid box caused confusion, dropping to an unmarked Lazaro at the back post. The Salzburg man used the space afforded to steady himself before hammering the ball past Knoflach from a tight angle, with the Rapid keeper beaten by the raw power and speed - 1:0 (73.).
The goal seemed to knock the wind out of Rapid sails and gave the hosts the boost they needed. Knoflach was again on hand to superbly tip another shot from Lazaro to safety (78.), and again produced an excellent low save as Hwang bore down on him after leading a Salzburg counter attack (81.). Unable to find an attacking answer to Lazaro's strike and thanks to a superb performance from Knoflach, there were no further additions to the score line and Rapid were condemned to a narrow defeat, whilst the win sealed Salzburg's fourth league title in a row. This match has shown however, that with grit and determination Rapid can compete with Salzburg, and this is perhaps the most salient point to have arisen from this encounter, and one that should give Rapid fans everywhere hope and belief ahead of the cup final. In the coming weeks the Green & Whites need a couple more points to banish any lingering notions of getting seriously mixed up in the relegation picture before turning attention back to Salzburg and the opportunity of adding more silverware to the trophy cabinet.
tipico Bundesliga, 33rd round:
RB Salzburg - SK Rapid 1:0 (0:0)
Red Bull Arena, 15.892 Attendance, Ref Muckenhammer
Goal: 1:0 Lazaro (73.);
RB Salzburg: Walke - Lainer, Miranda, Caleta-Car, Ulmer - Lazaro, Laimer, Samassekou, V. Berisha - Hwang (83./Minamino), Wanderson;
SK Rapid: Knoflach - Pavelic, Schösswendter, Sonnleitner, Auer - Thurnwald, Szanto, Schwab (77./Joelinton), Murg (69./P. Malicsek) - Jelic (59./Schaub), Kvilitaia;
Yellow Cards: Miranda, Wanderson;