Rapid thump Wolfsberg to return to winning ways
As expected, Rapid Head Coach Goran Djuricin shuffled his pack for the visit of Bundesliga strugglers Wolfsberg on Saturday: Louis Schaub made a welcome return to the starting line-up - and also had the honour of donning the captain's armband. Manuel Thurnwald also had reason to celebrate, making his return to the first-eleven, slotting in at right-back. There was more good news to be found on the subs bench, where captain in-waiting Stefan Schwab was to be found. Indeed, Schwab would come off the bench later in the match to mark his return from injury lay-off. Wet, cold, damp, miserable: it would be left to the players and the action on the pitch to warm the spectators who took their places in the Allianz Stadium, expecting a win against the out of form guests. Sporting Director Fredy Bickel sounded the rallying cry, stating the team needed to get on a roll in the battle for third place to make up for the points dropped in the previous months.
From the get go, a Hütteldorfer side seemingly brimming with confidence bossed the match and pushed WAC onto the defensive. Re-energised down the flanks thanks to the presence of Louis Schaub, it was the diminutive forward that manufactured the first opening, as he weaved into the box before cutting a precise ball back to Murg. Normally so reliable in such situations, Murg leant back as he struck the ball, lifting his first time shot high over the crossbar (3.). Just five minutes later Giorgi Kvilitaia was looking to get on the end of cross, was hauled down by Wolfsberg's Sollbauer, and referee Gishamer correctly pointed to the penalty spot. Kvilitaia stepped up to take the spot kick himself, and rolled a gentle side-footed shot down the middle of the goal, evading WAC keeper Kofler who dived to his right - 1:0 and the perfect start (8.)! There was brief rest spite for the visitors when Orgill broke to test Strebinger with a deflected shot (19.), but otherwise it was one-way traffic for the rest of the first half - and the match.
It didn't take long for the second to arrive, as the Green & Whites capitalised on some very ordinary defending by the team from Carinthia: a cute slid-rule pass from Lucas Galvao picked out Veton Berisha, who, played on side by a deep standing defender, took advantage of the space, lashing a right-footed finish into the far corner - 2:0 (25.). Just minutes later Berisha grabbed his second of the afternoon. This time picked out by Murg in a similar position, Berisha outdid himself, bending an unstoppable drive into the far top corner - 3:0 and a spectacular double from Berisha had taken the game away from WAC in double quick time (29.)! Rapid were now in full flow and looked to add to their already imposing lead. A fourth nearly arrived before half-time, when Murg curled a beautiful free-kick from the right hand side of the penalty area onto the woodwork (39.). The score line did little to flatter Rapid, who retired to the dressing rooms extremely satisfied with an excellent forty-five minutes' work.
An unchanged Hütteldorfer eleven emerged for the start of the second period, and but for excellent defending from Manuel Thurnwald, would've conceded in the opening minutes. Gschweidl broke through on goal, and having seemingly rounded Strebinger, a superb last-ditch tackle from Thurnwald nicked the ball off his toes and out for a corner just as he was preparing to slide it home in to a gaping net (48.). Rather than pull a goal back, WAC then fell further behind: a one-two involving Schaub and Murg played the former into the Wolfsberg penalty area, where he unselfishly cut the ball back to Kvilitaia, who stabbed home into an empty net from close range - 4:0 and Rapid were rampant (49.)!
Bristling with confidence, the Green and Whites rained shots down on the WAC goal from all angles: a free-kick from Thanos Petsos just cleared the crossbar (55.); before Kvilitaia missed out a hat-trick, when he pushed a chipped effort just past the post after being put through on Kofler via a deftly weighted pass from Dejan Ljubicic (60.). But with the game won Rapid inevitably took their foot off the gas somewhat and gave precious minutes on the pitch to some returning players on the bench. Tamas Szanto and Stefan Schwab were the main two to benefit, but the biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for the introduction of Rapid legend Steffen Hofmann. WAC did manage to grab the merest of consolations, when from a corner Kvilitaia put through his own net with a header that skimmed of the Georgian and beyond Strebinger (79.). Fittingly, it was Rapid who had the final say on an afternoon they had dominated from start to finish. Kvilitaia gathered the ball in the bottom left hand corner of the Carinthians' box, weaved in between two tired looking tackles, and rifled a thunderbolt past the motionless Kofler and into the far corner to round off the scoring in style - 5:1 and a hat-trick for Kvilitaia.
With the international break now upon, this was a timely result for Rapid, who gain momentum in the chase for third place.
tipico-Bundesliga, 27th round:
SK Rapid - WAC 5:1 (3:0)
Allianz Stadion, 12.700 Attendance, Ref Gishamer
Goals: 1:0 (8.) Kvilitaia (Penalty), 2:0 (25.) Berisha, 3:0 (29.) Berisha, 4:0 (49.) Kvilitaia, 4:1 (79.) Kvilitaia (Own Goal), 5:1 (89.) Kvilitaia;
SK Rapid: Strebinger - Thurnwald, M. Hofmann, Galvao, Bolingoli - Murg (73. Szanto), Ljubicic (77. S. Hofmann), Petsos (86. Schwab), Schaub - Kvilitaia, Berisha;
WAC: Kofler - Frieser, Sollbauer (36. Jovanovic), Drescher, Igor, Palla (86. Topcagic) - Flecker, Ashimeru, Offenbacher, Gschweidl - Orgill (77. Ouedraogo)
Yellow Cards: Bolingoli, M. Hofmann; Sollbauer, Palla, Offenbacher, Ashimeru, Jovanovic;