The perfect storm: Rapid put Austria to the sword
On the back of three consecutive victories, Rapid made the short cross-city journey to the Prater on Sunday. With time-honoured foes Austria Vienna ready to move back to Favoriten this summer, this would be the last Green vs Violet clash - in the league at least - to be staged in the grand old surroundings of the Ernst Happel Stadium for the foreseeable future. This season the Hütteldorfers have clearly bossed the Vienna derby: unbeaten in the league and having bundled Austria out of the cup, confidence was high ahead of the 326th derby as the Green & Whites sought to climb back into third place in the Bundesliga table.
In terms of the line-up, Head Coach Goran Djuricin was deprived of the services of Stephan Auer, giving the nod to Mario Pavelic over Manuel Thurnwald for the starting right-back berth. There was better news concerning Dejan Ljubicic, who was again available after serving his suspension for accumulation of yellow cards. The Rapid boss threw a surprise up front, with Philipp Schobesberger installed as the loan forward, with Murg, Schaub and Berisha deployed behind him.
From the kick-off the game erupted into a breakneck speed, with Rapid calling the tune. Stefan Schwab went close after just 120 seconds of play, glancing a header just wide of the target. But minutes later, the Rapid captain got his angles spot on: a cross-field ball found its way to Schaub deep in the left hand side of the penalty, who chipped the ball back across goal where it was met on the volley by Schwab; the Rapid captain lashing the ball past Austria keeper Pentz to give the Hütteldorfers an early lead 1:0 (8.)! With celebrations ringing round the stadium from the 3,200 Rapid fans in attendance, Austria threatened an immediate equaliser when a smart drop of the shoulder from Pires opened up a presentable shooting opportunity, but thankfully the Austria man put his shot wide of the far post (10.). Chances continued to flow: Richard Strebinger kept out a free-kick from Salaman (18.); whilst at the other end Schobesberger's firm header went straight into Pentz’s midriff (24.).
Midway through the first half the hosts enjoyed their best spell of the match, which culminated in Strebinger doing well to keep out Monschein's shot (32.). But with Austria trying to attack a solid Rapid defence, the Green & White forwards consistently found space and looked the more likely to find the next goal. Hence, it was little surprise when Rapid added a second just before half-time: the ball was worked to Murg who had taken up a position on the right-hand corner of the Austria box. Afforded too much space by his marker, Murg bent a beautiful, curling effort well beyond the reach of Pentz and into the far top corner of the net - 2:0 and a perfect time to score (42.)!
If Austria hoped that they could regroup during the half-time break and mount a second half comeback, those notions quickly became a pipe dream as Rapid picked up where they left off: A beautiful pass from Schwab split the Violets' defence wide open, allowing Schobesberger to charge through on goal, calmly round Pentz and slip the ball into the empty net - 3:0 (51.)! With Austria crumbling around them, Rapid sensed the chance to pour misery onto their battered opponents. The next chance arrived when Murg scythed through an absent defence and cut a tantalising ball across the goal mouth that unfortunately found no takers (60.). A long pass then picked out Schaub, who in turn fed Schobesberger only for the forward to be denied by a decent reaction save from Pentz (62.).
With everything that Rapid touched turning to gold, the Rapid bench was also inspired in its substitutions: Gio Kvilitaia was thrown into the fray in place of the impressive Schobesberger, and just seconds after arriving on the pitch, the Georgian hitman fought off his marker to turn a low cross from Veton Berisha into the net from close range with his first touch of the match – 4:0 and Rapid were in dreamland (73.)! With Austria completely beaten, it took just sixty seconds for Kvilitaia's next chance to arrive, but Pentz managed to claw his shot away to safety as the game threatened to turn into debacle for the hosts (74.). Thanos Petsos and club legend Steffen Hofmann came on to revel in the occasion for the closing minutes, and Rapid should have added a fifth, but Louis Schaub might be forgiven for being a bit too casual in guiding a left-footed shot wide of the far post (85.).
The final whistle went and put a broken Austria side out of its misery. Rapid had pulverised their bitter rivals, recording their biggest margin of victory in this fixture since 1981! Now attention turns to an altogether different prospect and what is sure to be a tough assignment: Wednesday's cup semi-final in Graz.
tipico Bundesliga, 30th round
FK Austria - SK Rapid 0:4 (0:2)
Ernst-Happel-Stadion, 11.267 Attendance, Ref Grobelnik
Goals: 0:1 ( 8.) Schwab, 0:2 (42.) Murg, 0:3 (51.) Schobesberger, 0:4 (73.) Kvilitaia;
FK Austria: Pentz - Klein, Madl, Borkovic, Salamon - Demaku - Venuto, De Paula (77./Grünwald), Alhassan (55./Fitz), Pires (63./Lee) - Monschein
SK Rapid: Strebinger - Pavelic, M. Hofmann, Galvao, Bolingoli - Ljubicic, Schwab (77./Petsos) - Schaub, Murg (76./S. Hofmann), V. Berisha - Schobesberger (72./Kvilitaia)
Yellow Cards: M. Hofmann, Murg, Schwab;