Rapid hammer four in St. Pölten
The second round of tipico Bundesliga fixtures saw us make the short journey to take on St. Pölten. Trainer Goran Djuricin's line-up had historians delving into club archives: for the first time since September 17, 1995, the Rapid team consisted of only Austrian players. On that day back in 1995, the all-Austrian Hütteldorfers drew 1:1 with LASK; the class of 2017 were aiming to go one better and get their season up and running with a victory this time out against SKN.
Responsible for this phenomenon was of course enforced absentees: alongside those suffering from mid- to long-term injuries, Tamas Szanto and the suspended Joelinton were also unavailable for selection. So in came Andi Kuen and Philipp Prosenik, both of whom would prove key figures in the first half. Rapid began brightly with an aggressive brand of pressing football, which the hosts would struggle to come to terms with over the 90 minutes.
The opening stages of the game provided a string of half chances, blocked crosses and the lack of a killer final pass. The best of the early chances fell to Andi Kuen, who guided a pin-point cross from Auer just wide of the target (9.). At the other end of the pitch St. Pölten manufactured a chance of their own, a chance that would ultimately be their only of the opening 45 minutes: Parker tested Richard Strebinger with a shot from distance, Thürauer reacted first to the rebound, playing an inviting ball across the goalmouth which - fortunately for the Green & Whites - found no takers (14.). It proved to be an isolated moment of concern for an otherwise steady and stable Hütteldorfer defence, and it was the men from the capital who began to stamp their authority on the game. Beautiful link up play involving Max Wöber and Mario Pavelic resulted in a volleyed effort from Prosenik that crept just the wrong side of the upright (29.). An acrobatic Thomas Murg attempt from distance followed, drawing a smart stop from the SKN keeper (33.). The pressure was building as Stefan Schwab swept an inviting ball across the six-yard box to Prosenik, but a desperate last minute challenge saw the ball deflected over the crossbar (37.).
Just as it looked as if the Lower Austrians might make it through to the break unscathed, Rapid landed a double blow: smart interplay in the box from Murg saw the forward work himself a couple of yards of space before turning the ball into the net via the inside of the post - 1:0 (37.)! Then on the stroke of half time things got even better for the Hütteldorfers when Schwab picked out Kuen, whose cross was deflected beyond SKN keeper Riegler by his own team mate - 2:0 (42.) and Rapid were looking comfortable going into half-time!
A highly motivated Rapid outfit emerged from the second half looking to put the game to bed: Kuen forced Riegler into an early save (54.), before a mazy Murg run into the St. Pölten box threatened a third. But the early second half intensity wore off, and a Green & White side showing signs of complacency began opening the door a little for the hitherto outplayed and suffering hosts. St. Pölten sensed a chance and took it: the unmarked Schütz couldn't believe his luck as he buried a straight forward header from a cross, cutting the deficit - 1:2 and memories of last week’s surrender of a two-goal lead began to permeate the agitated travelling fans (69.).
But the goal served only to wake Rapid up from their lethargy, and in the minutes' proceeding the goal they professionally slowed play down, taking the sting out of the game. By the time the final ten minutes rolled around Rapid had regained the upper hand and managed to land the killer blow: substitute Eren Keles fired a searching ball into the box, where unfortunate SKN man Petrovic could only put through his own net whilst attempting to clear - 3:1 (81.)! When Parker missed a golden opportunity to immediately reduce the arrears it was clear that the three points would be returning to Vienna with the Green & Whites. There was still time for fourth as two summer signings combined to add a touch of gloss to the victory: Boli Bolingoli picked out Keles with a perfectly weighted pass, Keles did the rest, rounding Riegler to slide home into an empty net and confirm an excellent away win for Rapid - 4:1 (90.)! The score line did little to flatter Djuricin's side, who had produced some excellent football. Next week sees the first Vienna derby of the season; hitting four in St. Pölten provides the ideal warm-up.
tipico Bundesliga, 2nd round :
SKN St. Pölten - SK Rapid 1:4 (0:2)
NV Arena, 6.139 Attendance, Ref Drachta
Goals: 0:1 Murg (37.), 0:2 Kuen (42.), 1:2 Schütz (69.), 1:3 Petrovic (81./Own Goal), 1:4 Keles (91.);
St. Pölten: Riegler - Ingolitsch (46./Rasner), Huber, Petrovic, Stec - Martic (46./Mehmedovic), Thürauer (87./Grabovac) - Schütz, Riski, Parker - Doumbouya;
SK Rapid: Strebinger - Pavelic, Sonnleitner, Wöber, Schrammel - Auer, Schwab - Murg (85./Thurnwald), Schaub, Kuen (76./Bolingoli) - Prosenik (68./Keles);
Yellow Cards: Parker; Murg;