1:2: Schwab goal sets up return leg
There was little let up in the searing heat that has engulfed Vienna this summer, as Rapid made the short trip across the Slovakian border to take on Slovan Bratislava. The familiarity of the surroundings did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the Hütteldorfer faithful or the team alike, as the Green & Whites made their return to European football after a painful absence. The team travelled to the Slovak capital on Wednesday, with 1150 Rapid faithful making the trip on the Thursday and soak up the next instalment in the club's international story.
Veton Berisha was drafted into the starting eleven in place of Andrei Ivan; whilst stalwart Mario Sonnleitner continued to deputise for the injured Max Hofmann, chalking up his 300th appearance for the club in the process! Rapid started the match on the front foot and went in search of an all-important away goal. Berisha fed the ball into Deni Alar, who tested Slovan keeper Greif with a shot that he failed to fully connect with, forcing the goalie into pawing the ball round the post for a corner (2.). Rapid captain Stefan Schwab then took centre stage, firstly firing a long shot narrowly over (9.), before he put his side ahead: a corner managed to evade the Bratislava defence as it fell to Schwab, who had time on the penalty spot to control the ball and slot a composed side footed finish past Greif into the bottom left hand corner - 1:0 (12.)! With little over ten minutes played Rapid had the crucial away goal.
Brimming with confidence, the Hütteldorfers continued to press: Boli Bolingoli's long shot cleared the bar by some distance (15.), before Schwab produced a superb sliding tackle in his own area to deny a Bratislava attacker a golden opportunity (20.). The hosts were clearly carried attacking threat, which was underlined in the 22nd minute when Sporar went close with a header. Christoph Knasmüllner then produced a moment of magic, when he gathered the ball a few yards into the Slovan half, looked up and saw Greif of his line. He produced a sumptuous chip from fully 50 yards, which beat the keeper all ends up but crashed back off the crossbar and away to safety (27.)! Rather than being two up and heading for an excellent result, Rapid suddenly found themselves pegged back: a routine corner cleared Sonnleitner but wasn't missed by Bozikov, whose downwards header beat Strebinger and levelled the tie - 1:1 (29.). Neither side threatened another in the remainder of the first half.
The start of the second period carried a strange symmetry to the fist - Rapid looked the better side and took the game to their opponents, but the hosts grabbed another goal against the run of the play. A cross from the right found its way to Berisha, whose sharp shot on the volley drew an excellent save from Greif (48.). Seconds later, decent football from Bratislava saw them get in down the Rapid left behind Bolingoli and play an innocuous low ball into the box. Rapid seemed to have plenty of men back, but the unfortunate Barac stretched to clear, and squeezed the ball past Strebinger at the near post to hand the Slovaks the advantage - 1:2 (50.). The goal rattled Rapid, who struggled to regain their attacking flair and composure.
With Rapid struggling, Bratislava failed to press home their advantage. Several last-ditch tackles kept Goran Djuricin's side just a goal adrift, whilst a smart save from Strebinger also helped to contain Slovan (64.). The Rapid trainer team turned to the bench for answers, bringing on Andrei Ivan and debutant Jeremy Guillemenot as they sought a way back into the match. Despite not being at their fluid best, Rapid had a golden chance to equalise: a rash challenge in the box on Deni Alar left the referee with little option but to point to the spot; Alar took the kick himself, but - after a considerable delay - saw Greif guess correctly and get a hand to his penalty. The rebound was kept in play and Alar thought he’d scored with a second bite of the cherry, but his close-range header was dramatically cleared off the line – much to the joy of the majority of the 9500 onlookers in the Pasienky Stadium (84.).
The score remained 1:2 and Rapid suffered a disappointing defeat against their near neighbours. However, there was enough in the match - particularly in the first half - to suggest that the Green & Whites are more than capable of turning it around in Penzing on Thursday. It will be a very different game in Hütteldorf.
UEFA Europa League, 3rd round:
Slovan Bratislava - SK Rapid 2:1 (1:1)
Stadion Pasienky, 9.560 Attendance, Ref Raczkowski (POL)
Goals: 0:1 Schwab (12.), 1:1 Boschikow (29.), 2:1 Barac (49./Eigentor);
Slovan: Greif - Apau, Salata, Bajric, Boschikow - Nono (87./Rabiu) - Cavric, Holman (46./Savicevic), Drazic (91./Laczko), Moha - Sporar
SK Rapid: Strebinger - Potzmann, Sonnleitner, Barac, Bolingoli - D. Ljubicic, Schwab - Murg (78./Guillemenot), Knasmüllner (68./Ivan), Berisha - Alar
Yellow Cards: Moha, Nono, Salata, Holosko bzw. Murg, Potzmann, Bolingoli