Season ends with stalemate in Wolfsberg
It was a drastically weakened SK Rapid squad that travelled to Carinthia on the weekend for their final engagement of the season. Shorn of two central defenders, youngster Mert Müldür was drafted into the team as cover for Lucas Galvao, who was unable to travel with the squad owing to a knee injury; whilst Max Hofmann was only fit enough for a place on the bench. Richard Strebinger, Louis Schaub and Thomas Murg were all in Tyrol on national team duty, whilst the retired Steffen Hofmann and the injured band of Christopher Dibon, Boli Bolingoli, Gio Kvilitaia, Ivan Mocinic, Tamas Szanto and Andreas Kuen were all also unavailable for selection. Add to the list of absentees Mario Pavelic, who left the club to join Rijeka, and a decimated Rapid turned to its reserve side for numbers, as the match against Wolfsberg in the Lavanttal Arena became something of a live audition for the club's hungry youngsters. One of those drafted in was the talented Nichloas Wunsch, who had completed 90 minutes the previous evening during an away victory for the reserves in Amstetten.
The first chance of the afternoon went the way of the hosts, but Tobias Knoflach was quickly off his line to block Bernd Gsschiwndl’s effort for Wolfsberg from a tight angle, after the WAC man had been played in by reserve pass (3.). It was unsurprising that a side who have won four of their last five games under interim Head Coach Robert Ibertsberger should have started with a degree of confidence against an inexperienced and unfamiliar looking Rapid line up. The hosts were certainly on top in the opening stages in territorial terms, but without creating much in the way of clear openings. By contrast, the Hütteldorfers were struggling to generate much by way of forward momentum. When a chance did materialise it dropped to Veton Berisha, who could only produce a disappointing shot from a promising position (17).
In the twentieth minute though, a concrete opportunity did materialise for the Green & Whites: excellent approach play from Veton Bershia saw the Norwegian evade the attentions of two WAC defenders before bending a curling effort which evaded Wolsfberg keeper Marko Soldo, but also the far corner - it was a good opportunity that could have given Rapid the lead. The Hütteldorfers had battled their way into the ascendency in the match, but had to wait until the stroke of half-time for the next clear-cut opportunity to arrive: excellent play from Dejan Ljubicic saw the ball slid into Joelinton, but in his final appearance for the club the Brazilian striker couldn't beat Soldo, who had rushed off his line to narrow the angle (43.).
The second half with it brought movement form the Rapid bench: the 22-year old Aleksandar Kostic came on in place of the vastly more experienced Thanos Petsos for his Bundesliga debut. The first real moment of danger for the home side arrived via Stefan Schwab, who produced a superb shot on the turn from the edge of the box that had Soldo diving full length to his right to keep the Rapid skipper's shot out (54.). Fifteen minutes later Rapid passed up a golden opportunity to snatch the lead: debutant Kostic cleverly latched onto a stray Wolfsberg pass in the attacking third and drove towards goals himself, nutmegging a lunging defender as he made his way to the box. With only Soldo to beat - and with Schobesberger and Joelinton to either side, the youngster experienced a rush of blood to the head, taking the shot on himself and firing it a foot wide of the near post. A one-yard pass to either his left or right would’ve resulted in a tap in for either team mate and a certain goal (69.).
With ten minutes to go, Goran Djuricin handed a third appearance in the famous Green & White to playmaker Kelvin Arase, who replaced Philipp Schobesberger to make his first first-team outing since September 2016. A game that Rapid has largely bossed nearly had a sting in the tail, when an otherwise harmless shot from distance took a wicked deflection, threatening to wrong foot Tobias Knoflach in the Rapid goal. But the stand-in Rapid keeper produced an outstanding save, re-adjusting his feet and scrambling across his goalmouth before diving full length to push the looping ball away to safety (87.)!
And so Rapid's 2018/2019 ended with a goalless draw in Wolfsberg. It was a decent performance from a patched up Hütteldorfer squad that contained promising performances from some potential stars of tomorrow.
tipico Bundesliga, 36th round:
WAC - SK Rapid 0:0
Lavanttal-Arena, 4.639 Attendance
SK Rapid: Knoflach; Auer, Sonnleitner, Müldür, Thurnwald; Petsos (46. Kostic), Ljubicic; Schobesberger (80. Arase), Schwab (C), Berisha; Joelinton;