Job done vs. St. Pölten
On Members' Day 24,200 onlookers filled the stands of the Allianz Stadium for the visit of Bundesliga strugglers SKN St. Pölten. The Rapid fans in attendance were keen to see the Green & Whites continue the upwards trend of the past months. Set up to be compact and soak up pressure by Trainer Oliver Lederer, St. Pölten presented a tough nut to crack, and - despite Rapid enjoying the lion’s share of the possession - it would take a while before the Hütteldorfers began finding gaps in the visitors rear-guard.
With the opposition defending stoutly in banks of four, Rapid looked to the wings for penetration and the attacking talents of Schobesberger and Schaub for inspiration. Indeed, it was diminutive forward Schaub's enterprising work down the right flank that lead to the first opportunity of the game: The Rapid number 10 rode a couple of challenges on his way into the box before losing control of the ball which kindly bobbled to Joelinton, who, from the edge of the 6-yard box, rattled the underside of the crossbar with a stinging drive (14.). It was the seventh time Rapid had struck the frame of the goal in this young season - a league high. But the misfortune whipped the Green & Whites into life as they began to hunt an opening goal against the Wolves.
However, the increased pressure failed to yield the breakthrough as too often the final pass was missing, or the necessary movement up front lacking. But at the other end of the pitch, Strebinger was having a very quiet afternoon, with St. Pölten infrequently enjoying short lived salvos into Rapid territory. It would be a case of whether Rapid could find the breakthrough and force the issue. With half time approaching it looked as though the deadlock might well be preserved going into the break, but a moment of flowing football provided the key to unlock the door as Joelinton finally put Rapid ahead: A beautifully constructed attacking move involving a one-two between Murg and Schaub ended with the ball being fed into Rapid's Brazilian striker who made no mistake, beating the St. Pölten keeper with an accomplished finish from close range - 1:0 (41.)!
The second half brought with it a slightly re-invigorated St. Pölten outfit. Having been virtually a spectator during the first period, Richard Strebinger was worked twice in quick succession from distance by Martic: The first shot was parried well away from danger by the Rapid custodian (50.), whilst the second powerful drive from Martic was parried back into the danger zone, where the ball was eventually turned in by Bajrami only for the goal to be chalked off for offside (56.). Much to their credit, the Green & Whites heeded the warning and set about re-establishing themselves as the dominant force and bossing possession as they had done in the first forty-five.
The first repost arrived via the right boot of Boli Bolingoli, who tried his luck from distance with his weaker foot after winning the ball back high up the pitch (61.). The shots began to rain down on St. Pölten keeper Riegler’s goal, but Stefan Schwab's shot was too central to trouble the in-form goalie (64.), whilst Murg's powerful volley just cleared the crossbar (67.). Rapid kept pressing in search of the second goal that would give them some breathing space. Stefan Schwab played an inch-perfect defence-splitting pass into the stride of Philipp Schobesberger, who was clipped on the ankles as he bore down on goal in the St. Pölten 18-yard box - penalty! Thomas Murg stepped up confidently and hit an extremely well-struck shot low to Riegler's left, but the St, Pölten gloveman pulled off a fantastic diving save to deny Murg and keep his side in the game (73.)!
With the teams only separated by the narrowest of margins, the closing minutes became a tense affair. And it looked like the side from Lower Austria were going to snatch a smash and grab point in the 86th minute when Hofbauer found space in the Rapid box from a corner and headed down and goal-wards. Fortunately for Goran Djuricin's charges, Richard Strebinger dived full length to his right to claw the ball to safety with a match-winning save. Referee Harkam duly blew the full-time whistle, and Rapid recorded another deserved three points, and simultaneously stretched their unbeaten run to seven competitive fixtures.
tipico-Bundesliga, 11th round:
SK Rapid - SKN St. Pölten 1:0 (1:0)
Allianz Stadion, 24.200 Attendance, Ref Harkam
Goal: 1:0 Joelinton (41.);
SK Rapid: Strebinger - Auer, Sonnleitner, Galvao, Bolingoli - Ljubicic, Schwab - Murg (88. Pavelic), Schaub (79. Kvilitaia), Schobesberger - Joelinton (66. Berisha);
SKN St. Pölten: Riegler - Stec, Petrovic, Muhamedbegovic, Bajrami - Martic - Schütz (59. Ingolitsch), Ambichl, Rasner, Balic (84. Hofbauer) - Sobczyk (79. Davies);
Yellow Cards: Ljubicic; Martic, Stec;