2:0 vs LASK: Kvilitaia to the double
On Saturday 14,800 hardy souls made the pilgrimage to Hütteldorf to watch Rapid take on LASK. And with the Green & Whites still searching for their first league victory of 2018, the added impetuous of the famous Rapid twelfth man was very welcome. Rapid's recent run of form of three straight wins against Linz, gave grounds for optimism for both team and public alike. Right from the off, a Rapid line-up featuring Sonnleitner in place of the suspended Galvao looked livelier, sharper and hungrier than they had in recent weeks.
Just minutes into the game, the fuse was lit by a rocket from Kvilitaia: a surging run and pass from Joelinton, deployed in a somewhat deeper lying role, expertly slid Kvilitaia in on goal. The Georgian instinctively lashed a left-footed shot past Linz goalie Pervan and straight onto the near post (7.). It was a signal of intent from Rapid and Kvilitaia in particular, who, if he had been suffering from a crisis of confidence in front of goal in recent months, displayed no traces of doubt or hesitancy on this afternoon. The in-form Joelinton then went from provider to goal threat, when he unleashed a vicious effort from the edge of the box, which Pervan did well to tip over the bar (15.). The team had certainly taken Trainer Goran Djuricin's instructions seriously: if you don’t shoot, you won’t score.
As the half progressed we continued to look full of desire and determined to out-muscle, out-fight and out-football the opposition. Despite bossing the game, it wasn't until the minutes leading up to the break that more concrete chances materialised for Rapid: a deft header from the dangerous Kvilitaia from a corner came within a hairs-breadth of sneaking in. Then came two moments of danger for Rapid as Strebinger was called into action for the first time during the game, firstly to keep out a shot from a tight angle by Goiginger (44.), and then an attempt from Michorl (45.). Just as it appeared Rapid were again going to go unrewarded for a positive showing, Kvilitaia changed the game: A precise cross from the right flank from Murg perfectly bisected the Linz defence, allowing an unchallenged Kvilitaia to guide the merest of headed glances past Pervan to put his side ahead - 1:0 and a morale boosting lead to take into half-time (45.).
Snowfall greeted an unchanged Rapid for the start of the second half, as the bitingly cold temperatures descended further into minus. But even in freezing conditions, Rapid's warming football continued: Murg fed the ball into Joelinton, who tested Pervan on the turn in the first real attempt of the second half. The anticipated fight-back from LASK never really came to fruition, with Rapid's defence looking well-drilled and remaining organised. With the danger extinguished at one end, the Green & Whites surged further ahead at the other: a beautiful run from Murg saw the forward drift infield and effortlessly glide beyond a couple of attempted tackles, before playing the ball into Kvilitaia. Ignoring an overlapping run, Kvilitaia slammed a bullet of a shot from the edge of the box past Pervan and into the top corner – 2:0 (70.)!
The guests only really mustered a couple of half-chances by way of a repost, but Richard Strebinger was on hand to comfortably deal with Joao Victor's header and Holland's shot. A late flurry of movement off the Rapid bench saw youngster Armin Mujakic, Veton Berisha and - to rapturous applause - Steffen Hofmann bring fresh enthusiasm and vigour to the Rapid performance in the closing stages. Indeed, two of the reinforcements combined to nearly add a third, but Mujakic's header from Hofmann’s corner was kept out at full stretch by Pervan (92.).
The score remained 2:0 and Rapid claimed a confidence boosting victory, the importance of which cannot be overstated: on Wednesday, Rapid welcome SV Ried to the Allianz Stadium in the quarter finals of the ÖFB Cup. We'll see you all there on Wednesday at 20:30! Rapid!
tipico Bundesliga, 24th round:
SK Rapid - LASK 2:0 (1:0)
Allianz Stadion, 14.800 Attendance, Ref Jäger
Goals: 1:0 Kvilitaia (45.), 2:0 Kvilitaia (70.);
SK Rapid: Strebinger - Auer, Sonnleitner, M. Hofmann, Bolingoli - Ljubicic, Petsos - Murg (83./Berisha), Joelinton, Schobesberger (88./S. Hofmann) - Kvilitaia (80./Mujakic);
LASK: Pervan - Ramsebner, Trauner, Luckeneder (65./Gartler) - Ranftl, Holland, Michorl, Wiesinger (59./Rep) - Goiginger, Tetteh, Joao Victor (80./Raguz)
Yellow Cards: Petsos, Mujakic; Trauner, Luckeneder, Wiesinger, Ramsebner, Holland, Tetteh