Second best against Salzburg
It was with a slightly surprising line-up that Rapid took to the field to face RB Salzburg on Sunday: 19-year old academy product Mert Müldür came into defence for his debut at centre back. At left back Andi Kuen was making his final appearance in Green & White, whilst Thanos Petsos and Dejan Ljubicic were deployed in holding midfield. Captain Stefan Schwab found himself in an advanced position, playing off lone striker Philipp Schobesberger.
But all the Hütteldorfers best laid plans were in tatters after just three minutes: a shot on goal was parried centrally by Richard Strebinger straight to the lurking Farkas, who made no mistake from close range to put the visitors 0:1 ahead (3.). The Green & Whites reacted positively, and a good move resulted in Schobesberger slipping Murg into the area, who drove a low shot across the Salzburg goal and onto the foot of the post. The rebound landed at the feet of Veton Berisha, who managed to get a goal bound shot off, but keeper Stankovic had recovered his position to punch to safety (12.). However, the next goalmouth action would take place at the other end of the pitch, as Salzburg ruthlessly exploited the unfamiliarity in the Rapid formation.
A swift break saw Salzburg sweep up field and the ball played in behind the Rapid defence to Wolf. Luckily for the Hütteldorfers, Thanos Petsos had tracked back, and as the Salzburg man rounded Strebinger, Petsos nipped in to take the ball off his toes and prevent a certain goal. The respite proved temporary though, as the visitors duly extended their lead: a melee in the Rapid box resulted in a deflected effort landing at the feet of Dabbur, who cleverly weaved past Strebinger before slotting home into the empty net - 0:2 (13.). The dangerous Gulbrandsen hammered an effort narrowly over the bar (20.), but just minutes later did get himself on the score sheet, bursting through the defence before beating the onrushing Strebinger with a deft chipped finish over the helpless keeper - 0:3 (27.). The wheels then threatened to really come off, when Dabbur guided a relatively simple chance wide of the far post (32.), before Strebinger made a fantastic stop to deny Schlager on the stroke of half-time (44.).
There was still room for a dreadful half of football to get even worse: debutant Müldür was forced off the field after taking a knock, whilst it looked like Andi Kuen suffered a painful knee injury. We wish Andi all the best with his recovery, and regret the sad sight of him leaving the pitch clearly in a lot of discomfort. Mario Sonnleitner and Stephan Auer came on to replace the injured duo. Even the most ardent Rapid fans would’ve accepted that the destination of the three points had been decided in the first half, but all 22,000 in attendance would have hoped for a response in the second period that showed some pride and determination. The Hütteldorfers did deliver that, and sought to restore some damaged pride with a string of decent attacks, albeit against an opponent that had taken their foot of the gas somewhat.
Salzburg nearly went further ahead when Yabo rattled the bar with a free-kick (67.), but Rapid did battle back into the match as an attacking force: Schobesberger robbed a Salzburg defender of the ball high up the pitch, fed Schwab, who in turn played in Berisha to stroke the ball home with a simple finish and grab a consolation (75.). Schobesberger again caused problems for Salzburg, threading a ball back to the onrushing Schwab, whose first-time effort narrowly cleared the crossbar (78.). Despite having been second best for large periods of the game, Rapid were then denied a clear penalty and a chance to salvage an unlikely point: Murg controlled the ball in area, rounded his marker, and was clearly brought down before he had a chance to shoot. Referee Drachta failed to point to the spot, and Salzburg promptly broke up the pitch and scored through Dabbur - 1:4 (82.). It was a bitter end ot the match after the Green & Whites had been mounting some late momentum.
The result leaves Rapid still looking for their first victory of Austria’s now dominant force in eleven consecutive attempts. Nonetheless, LASK's defeat in Graz means that with just two rounds to go, Rapid still occupy third place in the table. Next up for the Hütteldorfers is the final home match of the season and the visit of SCR Altach.
tipico Bundesliga, 34th round:
SK Rapid - RB Salzburg 1:4 (0:3)
Allianz Stadion, 22.300 Attendance, Ref Drachta
Goals: 0:1 Farkas (4.), 0:2 Dabbur (13.), 0:3 Gulbrandsen (26.), 1:3 Berisha (75.), 1:4 Dabbur (82.);
SK Rapid: Strebinger - Müldür (34./Sonnleitner), M. Hofmann, Ljubicic - Thurnwald, Schwab, Petsos (80./Joelinton), Kuen (34./Auer) - Murg, Schobesberger, Berisha;
RB Salzburg: Stankovic - Lainer, Ramalho, Onguene, Farkas (54./Yabo) - Haidara (74./C. Leitgeb), Samassekou, Wolf, X. Schlager - Gulbrandsen (60./Mwepu), Dabbur;
Yellow Cards: Berisha, Joelinton; Gulbrandsen