Derby win see Hütteldorfers continue to climb
On the back of seven undefeated in all competitions, a Hütteldorfer side brimming with confidence made the short cross city trip to the Ernst Happel Stadium to take on Austria Vienna in the first instalment of a Vienna Derby double header. A win for Goran Djuricin's side was crucial for a number of reasons: Firstly, extending the unbeaten run to eight with a victory would simultaneously keep Rapid in touch with the leading two at the top of Bundesliga, and put daylight between themselves and their fierce city rivals in fourth. Secondly, it would strike a huge psychological blow for the Green & Whites ahead of Wednesday's cup match (kick off at 20:30) against the same opponents, on the same ground.
A major absentee for Rapid was right-back Mario Pavelic, missing due to injury. Stephan Auer was drafted in in his stead on the right side of the defence. Otherwise, it was a familiar looking Hütteldorfer line-up that took to the field aiming to end a four-match win-less streak against the Violets from Favoriten. The first half chance of the match fell to the feet of Georgian Giorgi Kvilitaia, but the striker lifted his effort on the turn high over the crossbar (5.). A super run from Philipp Schobesberger saw him slalom his way through the Austria midfield until he was unceremoniously upended on the edge of the Austria box. The resulting free-kick from a promising position was disappointingly fired into the wall (10.). Rapid were having the better of the game: faster to the ball, more committed in 50-50's, and more active in pressing high up the pitch. But the longer the half wore in, disruptions and breaks in play became more frequent, making it difficult for the Green & Whites to press home any advantage. With half an hour played, there had been few shots of note registered by either side.
But in the final fifteen minutes of the first period the game sprang into life, and took on the character of a proper Vienna derby. Firstly, it was the Rapid bench who breathed a sigh of relief, as intricate passing football opened up the Green & Whites' defence, only for Friesenbichler to tamely shoot into the side netting from a threatening position (31.). At the other end, the increasingly influential Schobesberger nodded a long ball from Auer on to Kvilitaia, whose disappointing effort failed to trouble Austria goalie Pentz (35.). Rapid continued to pressure their hosts, and it looked like the breakthrough might’ve arrived via the boot of Stefan Schwab, but on his weaker right foot the Rapid skipper hit his shot over the bar from the penalty spot, after a blocked effort from Schobesberger had fallen kindly to him (37.).
Gio Kviliataia really should've put his side ahead after being presented with a glorious opportunity after excellent work from Schaub, but the Georgian poked Schaub's tantalising cross over the bar from just a few feet out with the goal at his mercy. There was still time for a final chance, this time for Schaub, but his header from a corner crept just the wrong side of the post. Austria had weathered the late Rapid storm, and made it back into the dressing rooms with an increasingly flimsy looking deadlock still just about intact.
The goal Rapid had threatened throughout the latter stages of the first duly materialised and the beginning of the second: Following a messy opening phase, Rapid found another gear and again applied pressure on the Austria rear guard. This time they cracked, as a deep cross was met by Schobesberger, who guided his header back in the direction from which the ball had come, across goal, out-foxing Pentz on its way into the back of the net - 1:0 (55.)! Schobesberger nearly doubled his - and Rapid's - lead ten minutes later, but a desperate lunging tackle from Austria defender Kadiri was just about enough to keep his side in the game (66.). A goal to the good it now looked like there would be only one winner, and the Green & Whites came close to sealing the victory when Stefan Schwab swept in to fire a weak fisted clearance from Pentz back towards goal, narrowly missing the target (72.).
There was a hearts-in-mouths moment for the Rapid fans in attendance though, as Galvao was dismissed for colliding with Austria's Monschein and being adjudged to have been the last man: A red card for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity. But as Galvao departed, the noise from the Army of Rapid fans in the stands grew, and with their support at their backs a determined and organised Rapid side shut up shop and denied Austria any sniff at getting back into the game in the last ten minutes or so. The Rapid spirit. And the derby victory.
Now the challenge is to repeat the performance on Wednesday. Goran Djuricin and his side have every opportunity to land a double blow against the old foe. Two wins in a week away from home against Austria? The momentum is with Green & Whites. Rapid!
tipico Bundesliga, 12th round:
FK Austria - SK Rapid 0:1 (0:0)
Ernst-Happel-Stadion, 14.189 Attendance, Ref Schörgenhofer
Goal: 0:1 Schobesberger (55.);
FK Austria: Pentz - Klein, Serbest, Westermann (63./Kadiri), Salamon (86./Sarkaria) - Holzhauser - Tajouri, Alhassan, Lee (76./Monschein), Prokop - Friesenbichler;
SK Rapid: Strebinger - Auer, Sonnleitner, Galvao, Bolingoli - Ljubicic, Schwab - Schaub (80./M. Hofmann), Murg, Schobesberger (74./Joelinton) - Kvilitaia (66./ Berisha);
Yellow Cards: Alhassan, Prokop, Holzhauser, Kadiri, Friesenbichler; Sonnleitner, Auer, Murg;
Red Card: Galvao (80.);