1:2: Sturm punish Rapid mistakes
It was in pouring rain that Rapid welcomed table-topping Sturm Graz to Vienna on Saturday. The Styrian side arrived in the capital full of confidence, having won four on the bounce. By contrast, the Green & Whites were aiming to arrest a worrying slide in form and put last week's defeat in Mödling behind them. Unsurprisingly, Trainer Goran Djuricin made several changes to the starting line-up, as he continued to try and find the winning formula: Louis Schaub came in for the suspended Thomas Murg, whilst new signing Boli Bolingoli was tasked with patrolling the left flank. Steffen Hofmann was thrust into central midfield, with Kvilitaia up front and Max Hofmann at the back. There was good news for the Rapid faithful, with Philipp Schobesberger again available for selection for the first time since November 2016 when he featured in a 1:2 home defeat - against Sturm Graz.
In an even opening phase Rapid looked to deploy a high pressing, fast tempo strategy; the forwards and midfielders buzzed around the Sturm man in possession, looking to drive the guests back and get on the front foot. Stefan Schwab fired over the crossbar with the first noteworthy effort the match (6.), before good interplay between Schaub and Steffen Hofmann resulted in an excellent chance for the former, but Schaub was denied by a one-handed stop by Graz keeper Siebenhandl from close range (11.). Just as Rapid looked to be building momentum more self-inflicted disaster truck: A loose pass from Kvilitaia was seized upon in the midfield, with Hierländer latching onto an incisive, perfectly weighted forward pass in behind the Rapid defence, before rolling the ball across to the unmarked ex-Rapid striker Alar, who slid a simple finish into an empty net to give Sturm the lead - 0:1 (17.). As a mark of respect Alar declined to celebrate in front of the home fans.
Sturm took control and the Hüttledorfers were grateful to Richard Strebinger, who did well to keep out a near post shot from Huspek as Graz went in search of a second (28.). The rest of the half was characterised by panicked, uncontrolled football until the stroke of half-time, when Kvilitaia’s looping effort hit the crossbar to the sight of an incorrectly raised linesman's flag (45.).
It was to prove Kvilitaia's last involvement; the Georgian making way for Joelinton in the second half. Hopes of a fightback and early turn-around were quickly dashed though when Röcher put Sturm two goals up: having missed two chances by Huspek already, Sturm was in no mood to miss a third, comfortably heading home from close range unchallenged - 0:2 (54.). But just as Sturm thought they may have put the game to bed, Rapid found the immediate reply they desperately needed: good work from substitute Joelinton ended with the Brazilian fizzing a ball across the Graz goalmouth to Auer, who made no mistake as he slammed the ball into the roof of the net from just yards out - 1:2 and the match was alive (60.)!
The introduction of Philipp Schobesberger ramped up the atmosphere another couple of notches as Rapid searched for an equaliser, but despite the efforts of the crowd the best the Hütteldorfers could manage was an attempted overhead kick from Bolingoli (69.). It looked as though Rapid might have one last chance to save themselves at the death: Louis Schaub put a tantalising cross over the bar from just yards out, but the whistle had already gone in the build-up to the chance anyway for a suspected foul as the game entered injury time (90.). There were to be no further chances as Rapid went down to another disappointing defeat.
Next Saturday we have another chance to put things right in front of our home fans, as newly promoted LASK make the journey to Hütteldorf.
tipico Bundesliga, 5th round:
SK Rapid - Sturm Graz 1:2 (0:1)
Allianz Stadion, 21.000 Attendance, Referee Schüttengruber
Goals: 0:1 Alar (17.), 1:1 Röcher (53.), 1:2 Auer (60.);
SK Rapid: Strebinger - Pavelic, M. Hofmann, Wöber, Schrammel (61./Schobesberger) - Auer, Schwab - Schaub, S. Hofmann (76./Keles), Bolingoli - Kvilitaia (46./Joelinton);
SK Sturm Graz: Siebenhandl - Koch, Maresic, Lykogiannis, Potzmann - Hierländer, Lovric (80./Jeggo) - Huspek (88./Schoissengeyr), Zulj, Röcher - Alar (73./Zulechner);
Yellow Cards: Schaub, M. Hofmann; Potzmann, Lykogiannis, Hierländer;