Brushed aside in Villarreal
Coach Didi Kühbauer sprang a few surprise changes in Villarreal on Thursday night, where Rapid were the guests in the 3rd match day of the UEFA Europa League group stage. In a 4-5-1 system Marvin Potzmann was deployed in midfield ahead of right-back Mert Müldür. Dejan Ljubicic, Stefan Schwab, Veton Berisha and Thomas Murg comprised the rest of the midfield, with Deni Alar alone up top. Rapid had plenty in reserve, with Knasmüllner, Ivan, Dibon and Pavlovic all named amongst the subs.
Ahead of kick-off it was clear that the forthcoming two clashes with the Spanish side would shape the group; with Rapid one point ahead of their opponents at kick-off, a positive result would've left the Hütteldorfers well positioned in Group G. From the first whistle it looked as though the Green & Whites could be in for a long evening: Richard Strebinger was too causal in dealing with a back pass, with his clearance ballooning off Villarreal striker Ekambi and narrowly missing the goal (9.). At the other end Rapid had a glorious chance to grab the vital first of the evening, but with the whole goal to aim at Deni Alar struck a disappointing shot straight down the home goalie’s throat when he really should've scored! It was difficult to fathom why Rapid then defended so deep and passively as Villarreal carved through the defence following a mix up with Ekambi screwing his shot wide (14.). The warnings were there.
After missing another simple opportunity (20), Ekambi atoned as he burst through on goal, turned away from Strebinger and lifted a looping ball towards the back post where Fornals met it on the volley, slamming home into an empty net - 1:0 (25.). Rapid looked second best across the pitch: lethargic, disorganised, lacking character, and it was only a matter of time before the home side took advantage. And it duly arrived: more chaos in the Rapid defence allowed Ekambi to stroll through unchallenged and slide a simple finish past Strebinger and into the net - 2:0 (30.). More chances came and went for Villarreal, as, surprisingly, it took until the stroke of half time before they added a third: with Rapid all at sea, Ekambi found himself in all kinds of space as he headed a cross past Strebinger - 3:0 (45.) and a dreadful end to a first half horror show from the Hütteldorfers.
The introduction of Andrei Ivan at half time did little to stem the tide. A clash of heads resulted in the unfortunate Veton Berisha having to leave proceedings, with Thurnwald coming on in his place. The fourth goal of the evening arrived just after the hour, with Raba profiting for Villarreal as the Rapid defence was once again cut to ribbons - 4:0 (64.). Villarreal's Costa was then sent off after collecting two yellow cards – one of which was for diving - but the numerically disadvantaged Yellow Submarine still managed to add a fifth, as Gerard Moreno finished off a sweeping counter attack - 5:0 (85.). It was telling that Rapid's first shot of the second half arrived in the 87th minute when Müldür found the side netting. The final whistle went with the score at 5:0, a result that did little to flatter the hosts on a bitterly disappointing night for the Green & Whites.
UEFA Europa League:
Villarreal CF - SK Rapid 5:0 (3:0)
Estadio de la Ceramica, 15.000 Attendance, Ref Özkahya
Goals: 1:0 Fornals (26.), 2:0 Ekambi (30.), 3:0 Ekambi (45.), 4:0 Raba (64.), 5:0 Moreno (85.);
Villarreal CF: Fernandez – Liambrich, Alvaro, Funes Mori, Costa – Caseres (78./Cazorla), Trigueros – Raba (70./Moreno), Fornals (65./Chukwueze), Layun – Ekambi;
SK Rapid: Strebinger – Potzmann (46./Ivan), Müldür, Sonnleitner, Barac, Bolingoli – Murg (77./Knasmüllner), Ljubicic, Schwab, Berisha (60./Thurnwald) – Alar;
Yellow Cards: Trigueros, Caseres; Murg
Yellow/Red Card: Costa (79./Villarreal);