Rapid edged out in Cup Final
This season's ÖFB Samsung Cup Final pitted Austria's biggest and most decorated club against the side currently in possession of the most expensively assembled squad in Austrian domestic football: Rapid Vienna took on Salzburg, and in Green & White visors was not only a 15th cup win but also a final chance to secure European football for next season. Behind one of the goals was a solid wall of Green & White; whilst green also flowed into the side stands and neutral sectors with the Rapid travelling army of supporters eating up three quarters of the stadium. The fans were there: Rapid had the necessary 12th man.
In the last match of the season Louis Schaub was back and available for selection. Along with Schaub, Thomas Schrammel had also recovered from injury in time to take his place in the starting line-up. Whilst there was lots riding on the game for Rapid, Salzburg also had their own ambitions: the side from Austria's alpine land were hunting their fourth domestic double on the trot. The size of the task facing the Hütteldorfers was clear, and unsurprisingly Rapid sought to keep it tight at the back and nullify Salzburg's impressive attack.
Hence, the first half took on a character similar to that of Rapid's recent trip to Salzburg: dogged defending from the Green & Whites, with Salzburg unsuccessfully probing and looking for openings. The Hütteldorfers' plan of hitting the opposition on the counter never really came to fruition as chances remained scarce. One of the few noteworthy moments in front of goal was provided by Joelinton with a sharp, sizzling effort from distance that cleared the bar (37.). It was little surprise when the first half drew to a close with deadlock still intact. There had been little for the attackers of either side to feed off.
But with the first concrete chance of the match Salzburg went ahead: a long, deep ball into the box from Lainer was latched onto and converted from close range by Hwang - 0:1 (52.). The goal sparked the game into life in an attacking sense, and the Hütteldorfers began taking the game to their opponents and venturing forwards out of their defensive formation. A shot from Joelinton was deflected behind for a corner, with the resulting set piece being headed narrowly over the crossbar by Christopher Dibon (54.). Salzburg were rocking, Rapid were pressing. Then, just minutes later the equaliser arrived: a fantastic whipped delivery from Mario Pavelic was met by the flying Joelinton, who powered a header beyond Salzburg keeper Stankovic to draw Rapid level - 1:1 and three quarters of the crowd were thrown into wild celebrations (57.)!
But in the minutes after the goal Rapid were unable to build momentum; instead it was Salzburg who wrested back the attacking initiative and began creating chances. A header from Lainer went just wide (69.), before they stole back ahead with a goal out of nothing: a shot from substitute Haidara was blocked, dropped to Lazaro and dispatched by the Salzburg man to restore his side's advantage - 1:2 (70.). A solo effort from Berisha ended up going over the bar, but Salzburg were threatening to take the game away from Rapid (72.).
Pushed forwards by the masses of Green & Whites fans in the stadium, Rapid came again, continued pressing and nearly got their reward deep into injury time when an on-target header from Christoph Schösswendter was saved by Stankovic (96.).
It wasn't to be. A bitter defeat that prolongs Rapid’s search for cup glory. Football can often be disappointing, and thus it's important to remain philosophical. We cannot put it any better than our fans: "Marble, stone and iron break, but not our Rapid."
SK Rapid - RB Salzburg 1:2 (0:0)
Klagenfurt, Wörthersee Stadion, 20.200 Attendance, Ref Hameter
Goals: 0:1 Hwang (51.), 1:1 Joelinton (56.), 1:2 Lazaro (84.);
SK Rapid: Knoflach - Pavelic, Dibon, Wöber, Schrammel - Auer, Schwab - Schaub (71./Kuen), Szanto (73./Traustason), Murg (86./Schösswendter) - Joelinton;
RB Salzburg: C. Stankovic - Lainer, Miranda, Wisdom, Ulmer (70./Schwegler) - Lazaro (91./Caleta-Car), Samassekou, V. Berisha, Wanderson (84./Haidara) - Laimer - Hwang;
Yellow Cards: Murg, Dibon; Lainer;