Rapid sign off with final day success
On Sunday the last round of fixtures in what has been a turbulent season from a Green & White perspective rolled around. SKN St. Pölten were the guests in Hütteldorf with Rapid looking to capitalise on recent successes and build a head of steam ahead of the cup final. More than 20,000 fans filled the stands of the Allianz Stadium with most proudly sporting a range of replica shirts from across the ages.
And on this special occasion the crowd witnessed two special personal landmarks: captain Steffen Hofmann took to the field for his 527th competitive appearance for the club, and was welcomed onto the field by President Michael Krammer, club CEO Christoph Peschek and Sporting Director Fredy Bickel. The Rapid legend also received a fitting video tribute on this historic occasion. Here you can watch the emotional tribute to a player destined for Rapid folklore yourselves!
A raft of rotations swept through the starting eleven, with Richard Strebinger, Christoph Schösswendter and Matej Jelic being drafted in as well as long serving right back Andi Dober! The stalwart of the reserves also received an on-pitch send-off prior to the match befitting of the length of service Andi has given club.
Sporting next season's new home kit Rapid made a brisk start and looked to take the game to their opponents, and in under ten minutes were celebrating taking the lead: Christopher Dibon met a corner from the right-hand side, rising to power a downwards header beyond the reach of the diving St. Pölten goalkeeper and into the back of the net - 1:0 (9.). Whilst there was something of a party atmosphere in Hütteldorf after the relieving of the pressure in recent weeks, St. Pölten were involved in a direct head-to-head battle with SV Ried in a fight for Bundesliga survival. Hence, this was never going to be a straight forward victory for the Green & Whites. The guests fought back, with Hartl going close with a header (19.) just minutes before an equaliser actually arrived: Andi Dober was adjudged to have brought down his opponent inside the box; Doumbouya stepped up and converted the resulting penalty - 1:1 (21.).
Rapid continued to press in this pressure-free encounter, with Andi Kuen trying his luck from range (24.), as did Steffen Hofmann (37.). The guests had an excellent chance to go into the break in the lead, but Richard Strebinger saved well from Doumbouya. The half time break saw the end of Andi Dober's time in the Rapid first eleven, as Manuel Thurnwald came on to replace him.
The second half remained an open affair with chances at both ends, but it was Rapid who forced the crucial breakthrough: again it came from a corner, this time it was Christoph Schösswendter who rose highest, stearing home a header at the near post - 2:1 (56.)! At the other end of the field Richard Strebinger was proving to be on top form - and fortunately so - as he denied firstly Doumbouya then Ambichi in quick succession (66.). The Rapid custodian was again called into action to keep out Diallo’s long range effort as St. Pölten pushed for an equaliser in their bid to avoid the drop. Matej Jelic could've made the points safe for the Green & Whites but guided his volley narrowly wide of the target (70.), whilst Thomas Schrammel looked to get in on the action with a long-range attempt.
However there were no late additions to the score line and Rapid held on to record a narrow 2:1 victory to round off the season in positive mood. Now it’s time for full concentration as the club builds towards the forthcoming cup final against champions RB Salzburg. Congratulations to the boys and the coaching staff on turning around an ailing season!!
tipico Bundesliga, 36th round:
SK Rapid - St. Pölten 2:1 (1:1)
Allianz Stadion, 20.200 Attendance, Ref Jäger
Goals: 1:0 Dibon (9.), 1:1 Doumbouya (22./Elfmeter), 2:1 Schösswendter (56.);
SK Rapid: Strebinger - Dober (46./Thurnwald), Schösswendter, Dibon, Schrammel - Szanto (60./Auer), P. Malicsek - Traustason (78./Joelinton), S. Hofmann, Kuen - Jelic;
St. Pölten: Riegler - Stec, Huber, Diallo, Pirvulescu - Ambichl, Martic (76./Brandl), Petrovic, Drazan - Doumbouya, Hartl (76./Luckassen);
Yellow Cards: Dober, Schösswendter; Hartl