Didi Kühbauer reverted to a familiar 4-2-3-1 formation for Wednesday's trip to the Lavantthal Arena to face his ex-club in the ÖFB Cup. The home of Wolfsberg hasn't proven to be a happy hunting ground for the Green & Whites in recent times, but Rapid went into the match in positive mood having secured a win last time out against Admira. Lone striker Andrija Pavolvic had the first effort on goal, drawing a good save from WAC keeper Kofler with a shot on the turn after clever set up play from Stefan Schwab (8.). But the early rhythm of the game was upset when a nasty clash of heads between Christopher Dibon and WAC's Dever Orgill lead to a lengthy pause. Happily, Dibon was able to continue, but the news wasn’t so good for the Wolfsberg player, who worryingly left the field and was taken straight to hospital. We wish Dever Orgill a speedy recovery.
When the game did restart, it was the Hütteldorfers who were on top and their efforts were rewarded: Mert Müldür found Thomas Murg, who in turn whipped a perfect ball into the hosts' box where Andrija Pavlovic guided a header beyond the reach of the WAC keeper to register his first competitive goal for the club - 1:0 (22.)!
The goal served to wake the hitherto slumbering hosts, who answered back just minutes later with their first shot on goal, but Richard Strebinger was on hand to turn the attempt away to safety (25.). On the half hour mark Michael Liendl thought he'd equalised, but excellent last-ditch defending saw the ball scrambled away for a corner (30.). Wolfsberg were now on top and testing the Rapid defence. Respite arrived in the shape of a Pavlovic shot, but the Serbian international got his angles wrong on this occasion and lifted his effort well over the ball after being found in a promising position by the influential Christoph Knasmüllner (37.).
There was a further interruption to the flow of the game just before half time, as Rapid were forced to see out the half with ten men: an accidental coming together left the unfortunate Christopher Dibon with an injured foot and unable to continue. But despite the numerical disadvantage, the Green & Whites grabbed a crucial second: A Wolfsberg defender unintentionally deflected a pass from Murg straight into the path of Pavlovic, who swept home a sitter from close range - 2:0 (45.)!
The pause allowed the Hütteldorfers to send a full complement of players back onto the field, with Mateo Barac coming on for Dibon, who will learn the full extent of his injury only after undergoing more examinations back in Vienna. Two-goals to the good, there was little reason for Rapid to open up and play expansive football and the opening stages of the second half passed largely without incident. When the next chance did arrive it fell to Rapid, and it was fully capitalised upon: a short corner taken between Murg and Knasmüllner presented the latter with a difficult chance, but from a tight angle he made no mistake, rifling home to put Rapid 3:0 ahead and with one foot in the quarter finals (58.)! The goal was Knasmüllner’s seventh since arriving from Barnsley in the summer.
WAC keeper Kofler had to be on his toes to deny Murg (64.) and prevent further damage being done, as Rapid threatened to run away with the match. In the 67th minute Swiss youth team star Jeremy Guillemenot came on for Andrija Pavlovic, whose performance will have gone a long way to silencing some of his critics. The only black mark in the closing stages was a knee injury to Dejan Ljubicic, who was replaced by Philipp Malicsek. Otherwise, it was a composed and professional defensive display from the Rapid back four, who marshalled their team comfortably to the final whistle keeping their clean sheet intact. The game had, in truth, been decided long before the final whistle put Wolfsberg and their fans out of their misery, as Kühbauer’s side cruised into the cup quarter finals.