Hütteldorfers safely trough in ÖFB-Cup
The kick-off on Sunday at 16:00 not only got the game against SC Schwaz underway, but also the 2017/18 season for the Green & Whites: Competitive football was back on the menu in the shape of the UNIQA ÖFB Cup first round. With the Tyrolean sunshine blazing, Rapid locked horns with their opponents from Austria’s regional leagues in front of an impressive 3000-strong turn-out, 300 of which had made the long journey from the capital to cheer on the Hütteldorfers.
And it was the loyal bunch of hardy travellers that had early reason to celebrate: A searching pass from Max Hofmann picked out the run of solo-striker Joelinton, with the Brazilian laying off the ball in the penalty area to the onrushing Stephan Auer, who stroked the ball into the back of the net with a well-placed finish via the inside of the post - 1:0 (7.). It was Auer's first goal for the club since making the move to Penzing last summer. Rapid dominated the game following the goal, with only the Green & Whites' profligacy keeping the hosts within touching distance: Thomas Murg went close (16.), before Joelinton had strong appeals for a penalty waved away. At the other end of the pitch we did - on occasion - ride our luck, but also had an in-form Richard Strebinger between the sticks: The Rapid goalie was on hand to save from Ertogul with his feet, after Schwaz had surprisingly manufactured a clear shooting opportunity (26.).
Whilst Rapid were proving more than capable of putting together neat passing moves and slicing through midfield areas, clear-cut chances were arriving only at irregular intervals. The Green & Whites could well have double their advantage minutes before half time, but Schwaz keeper Basic denied Joelinton who had been played into an excellent position by Tamas Szanto (42.).
"We allowed an unnecessary nervousness to creep into out game during certain phases", stated a frustrated Goran Djuricin: "During the break I let the team know in no uncertain terms that we need to find end-product to cap off our passing moves." Hence, it was with renewed vigour - and some personnel changes - that Rapid came back out for the restart: Mario Sonnleitner was introduced at the expense of Max Hofmann, while Steffen Hofmann replaced Tamas Szanto. Whilst the mercurial number 11 may have passed on the armband this year, he continues to carry round with him any number of proud records: With his introduction Steffen was competing in his 528th competitive match in Green & White, over taking the legendary Peter Schöttel's 527 appearances for the club. A true football God.
Steffen Hofmann's introduction had the desired effect, as he was heavily involved in the next two scoring opportunities: Firstly, he fed a superb low ball into Murg, who drove his shot the wrong side of the far post (49.). Murg then almost turned provider for Hofmann, but he couldn't apply the finishing touch to Murg's low cross across the goal mouth. It seemed as though Djuricin's harsh words at half time were having the desired effect. Rapid were again bossing the match, and looked hungrier and more energetic. The Hütteldorfers looked like they had a second goal in them, and so it proved as the game headed for the Rapid-Viertelstunde. A corner from Hofmann found the head of Sonnleitner, but the centre-back's header was saved by Basic (70.), before Murg again threatened with a shot that just missed the target as the pressure began to build (72.). With the Schwaz defence creaking the killer blow was finally landed: A pin-point cross from Thomas Schrammel found Stefan Schwab who did the rest, directing a bullet header beyond the reach of Basic to send Rapid safely through into the next round - 2:0 (75.)!
There was still time for Joelinton to rattle the crossbar (83.), but the score remained 2:0. "It was the difficult game we were expecting, as is so often the case for teams on the first rounds of the cup. But we won and we are through", summarised Trainer Djuricin post-match. The loudest song emanating from the away end was unsurprisingly reserved for Steffen Hofmann, and rightly so: Congratulations to Steffen on reaching a wonderful and historical landmark in Green & White!
UNIQA ÖFB Cup, 1st round:
SC Schwaz - SK Rapid 0:2 (0:1)
Sunday, 16th Juli 2017
Silberstadt Arena Schwaz, 3000 Attendance
Goals: 0:1 Auer (7.), 0:2 Schwab (75.);
SK Rapid: Strebinger; Pavelic, M. Hofmann (46. Sonnleitner), Wöber, Schrammel; Auer, Schwab; Murg, Szanto (46. S. Hofmann), Schaub (54. Kuen); Joelinton: