16.08.2018 22:37
UEFA Europa League, Team, Match Report

European magic: Four-Star Rapid advance

The first leg against Slovan and follow-up performance against WAC had set alarm bells ringing in some quarters ahead of Thursday night's return fixture against Bratislava in Vienna. The Hütteldorfers would need a vastly improved performance if they were to get past their near neighbours, and progress - as was expected when the draw was made - into the UEFA Europa League qualifying round. Whilst things haven't been going to plan on the pitch, the same certainly couldn’t be said for the stands, where a stunning fan display welcomed the Green & Whites to the pitch. The support was there, and the scene was set for a dramatic European encounter.

The match ignited straight from kick-off: Slovan had the first shot on target after just 120 seconds, when Cavric fired just wide from distance. Rapid hit back immediately, bagging the early goal they craved: an inch-perfect low cross from Bolingoli was met by Knasmüllner, who connected sweetly with a first time, side-footed shot that was still rising as it hit the back of the net – 1:0 and Rapid had their noses in front on away goals (3.)! An intense battle developed, with Rapid showing the sort of spirit and determination lacking in recent outings. The defence was looking solid and well-marshalled by Mario Sonnleitner, who looked at his commanding best. At the other end of the field Rapid continued to look dangerous, as Veton Berisha drew a smart stop from Slovan goalie Greif (30.). Mateo Barac then went close with a header from a free-kick, as Rapid continued to press for the vital second goal. A miscommunication nearly let Bratislava in on the stroke of half time, but Richard Strebinger and Marvin Potzmann combined to clear the danger.

 

The second half was ushered in by another early Bratislava attempt on Strebinger's goal, with the Rapid custodian producing a diving stop to deny Sporar (49.). After surviving the early scare, the Hütteldorfers hit their straps and took control of the match. Chances flowed, and it looked like the Slovakians would buckle under the pressure: Bolingoli fired over from a tight angle (54.), before Potzmann cutely picked out Knasmüllner, who rattled the crossbar with sweetly struck shot (64.).

The impressive Boli Bolingoli again found himself in a good position, but snatched at the opportunity (64.), before Schwab forced Greif into a superb save with a header from a corner (65.). With Rapid in the ascendency disaster almost struck, as Slovan delivered a reminder that the game was far from over. A fluid move cut open the Green & White defence, with Strebinger brilliantly denying a Bratislava attacker as he looked odds on to score from the penalty spot. The ball landed at the feet of another Slovak, who stepped inside a challenge before arrowing a shot wide with the goal at his mercy. This was an edge of the seat European encounter.

In this breathless phase, the possibility that Rapid’s dominance might go unrewarded festered in the back of the mind. But, as has so often been the case over the years, the Green & Whites delivered the glittering moment on the European stage: substitute Andrei Ivan shrugged off a challenge and galloped towards the Slovan goal, rolled the ball across to Knasmüllner, who finished beautifully by guiding an elegant side foot off the underside of the bar and into the net - 2:0 (79.)! The whole of Hütteldorf sensed a knock-out blow was in the offing, and it was duly delivered: Knasmüllner slid the ball into the unmarked Thomas Murg in the area, Murg gathered the ball and calmly slotted past Greif to deliver the killer punch - 3:0 (84.)!

With Bratislava beaten and out on their feet, Rapid added a fourth, with Knasmüllner twisting and turning away from his marker before beating Greif with a delicious left-footed finish into the far corner to seal a sumptuous hat-trick: three for Knasmüllner, four for Rapid (94.)! After a painful few weeks, Rapid had won again and produced a stunning performance when it mattered.
One final hurdle now stands between the Green & Whites and the group stages of the Europa League: on Thursday, FCSB - the reborn Steaua Bucharest - will visit Vienna for what, on paper, looks like it will be a classic tussle. Before that though, Rapid travel to Linz on Sunday to take on LASK. The three points will be crucial as Goran Djurcin’s side look to kick-start their domestic season. Rapid!

(gw)

 

UEFA Europa League, 3rd round:
SK Rapid - Slovan Bratislava 4:0 (1:0)
Allianz Stadium, 17.800 Attendance, Ref Massa (ITA)

Goals: 1:0 Knasmüllner (3.), 2:0 Knasmüllner (79.), 3:0 Murg (84.), 4:0 Knasmüllner (94.);

SK Rapid: Strebinger - Potzmann, Sonnleitner, Barac, Bolingoli - D. Ljubicic, Schwab (88./Müldür) - Murg (90./Kostic), Knasmüllner, V. Berisha - Alar (78./Ivan);

Slovan Bratislava: Greif - Apau (80./Cmiljanic), Salata, Bajric, Boschikow - Nono - Cavric, Drazic (80./Holosko), Rabiu (67./Savicevic), Moha - Sporar;

Yellow Cards: Schwab, Bolingoli, Alar, Potzmann; Boschikow, Salata, Bajric, Nono