Home comforts: Schwab double turns game
After spending almost an entire month on the road, Rapid finally got to run out on home turf on Saturday. Heimo Pfeifenberger's WAC were the guests, and would provide a good yard stick with which to measure the undoubted signs of progress so evident in previous weeks. Coach Goran Djuricin had the rare luxury of a virtually fully-fit squad to choose from: with names such as Steffen Hofmann, Gio Kvilitaia, Mario Pavelic, Thomas Schrammel, Thomas Petsos and Philipp Prosenik in reserve, the bench was reflective of the on-going work being done by Djuricin and Fredy Bickel in terms of strengthening and improving the squad.
A strong 20,600 crowd were in attendance to will the Hütteldorfers on to victory, with the collective belief returning to both playing staff and fans alike. Rapid started positively: a low cross from Schwab was almost turned into his own net by Wolfsberg's captain Rnic (4.), before Murg fired narrowly wide from the edge of the box, and a mazy run from the majestic Philipp Schobesberger went unrewarded (16.). With the return of the pacey Schobesberger, Rapid's game has gained another dimension with the ability to stretch and get in behind defences sorely lacking in during his prolonged absence - more of that later.
But before Schobesberger & Co. would come to the fore, the Green & Whites recently rediscovered belief and toughness was put under intense examination: slack defending allowed WAC's Gschweidl to steal in behind Rapid's backline and with space and time pick his spot, he beat Strebinger with a measured low shot through the keeper's legs - 1:0 (19.). Rather than panic Rapid took the necessary time to stabilise the ship and clear their heads, anchored again in midfield by the impressive Ljubicic. Like a boxer having recovered from a heavy blow, Rapid came off the ropes and again began throwing punches of their own: a deflected effort from Bolingoli landed on the roof of the net (29.), before Ljubicic rattled the underside of the crossbar with a sweetly-struck side-footed finish after Louis Schaub had slid the ball into him in the box (32.).
When the breakthrough did arrive, it did so in spectacular fashion: again it was Rapid skipper Stefan Schwab who did the damage, hammering a vicious drive from fully 25 yards past WAC keeper Sallinger – 1:1 (37.)! Questions will be asked of the Wolfsberg custodian, but it was a thunderous strike from Schwab, who is developing a taste for scoring from distance. Things got even better for Schwab and Rapid on the stroke of half time, when the captain turned the game on its head, meeting Schobesberger's perfectly weighted free kick to power a header past the helpless Sallinger - 2:1 and a huge moment for the Green & Whites (45.)!
At half time Kvilitaia came on to replace Veton Berisha, who had put in a hard-working shift without necessarily enjoying the rewards his effort might have merited. The Hütteldorfers picked up where they left off at the end of the first period, as Schobesberger threatened to take the game away from WAC with the first attempt of the second forty-five (48). The big Penzing crowd didn't have to wait long until a third arrive however, Thomas Murg - making the 100th league appearance of his career - profited from some underwhelming defending on the edge of the WAC penalty area to earn himself a yard of space before shooting low across Sallinger and into the bottom right hand corner of the net - 3:1 (53.)!
With a two-goal cushion Djuricin's Rapid began to turn on the style, and the gulf in capabilities between the two sides was underlined by the Green & Whites' fourth of the afternoon: man of the moment Schwab played a beautiful defence-splitting pass in behind the Wolfsberg defence for Schobesberger to exploit. The fleet-footed forward did just that, leaving defenders trailing in his wake as he swept into the box, before beating Sallinger with a trademark side-footed finish into the far corner - 4:1 and Rapid really turning on the style (69.)! Thanos Petsos and Rapid legend Steffen Hofmann were thrown into the mix to ensure the Hütteldorfers remained hungry in the closing minutes despite the three-goal cushion. They did just that, but there was to be no further goals for the hosts. WAC, however, did manage to grab a consolation, when Orgill cashed in on a defensive lapse in concentration, producing an excellent finish to beat Strebinger at his near post - 2:4 (88.). But the game had long been won, and the late goal did little to take the shine off what had been a tremendous showing from Rapid, who incidentally secured their first come-from-behind win of the season. With another excellent performance, the Hütteldorfers continue to edge quietly and confidently up the table.
tipico Bundesliga, 9th round:
SK Rapid - WAC 4:2 (2:1)
Allianz Stadion, 20.600 Attendance, Ref Jäger
Goals: 0:1 Gschweidl (19.), 1:1 Schwab (37.), 2:1 Schwab (45.), 3:1 Murg (53.), 4:1 Schobesberger (69.), 4:2 Orgill (88.);
SK Rapid: Strebinger - Auer, Sonnleitner, Galvao, Bolingoli - Ljubicic (76./S. Hofmann), Schwab - Schaub, Murg (73./Petsos), Schobesberger - Ve. Berisha (46./Kvilitaia);
WAC: Sallinger - Zündel (88./Ouedraogo), Sollbauer, Rnic, Palla - Flecker, G. Nutz, Rabitsch, Wernitznig (75./Frieser) - Gschweidl (75./Topcagic), Orgill;
Yellow Cards: Rabitsch, Sollbauer;