Sonnleitner at the double in Rapid win
After having suffered through a trying past few weeks, Rapid gave their fans reasons to cheer on Sunday. Hosting bottom club Admira in the final match of the 12th round of Bundesliga fixtures, Mario Sonnleitner proved to be the unlikely hero, grabbing a double to offer a bit of light at the end of a very dark and long tunnel. The three points see the Green & Whites clamber away from an unacceptable 9th place in the table, reorienting the focus on those teams above, rather than below, the Austria's most decorated club.
As expected after the horror show in Villarreal, Didi Kühbauer rang the changes: Christopher Dibon, Manuel Martic, Christoph Knasmüllner, Andrei Ivan and Andrija Pavlovic all returned to the starting eleven. As a precaution, Veton Berisha was unavailable for selection after suffering concussion, whilst Manuel Thurnwald also missed out through injury. Kühbauer was looking not only for an upturn in results, but an improvement in attitude and mental toughness from his side, and the 14,600 fans in attendance in the Allianz stadium on Sunday would've been encouraged on the second point.
Rapid began brightly, showing a hunger and determination to take the match to the Bundesliga's basement club: a blocked shot from Knasmüllner nearly landed at the feet of Bolingoli (2.), before Knasmüllner turned provided for Pavlovic, whose progress was checked by an offside flag (7.). Pavlovic - still searching for his first goal for the club - then headed narrowly over after being found by a good cross (10.). At the other end, an inventive chipped effort landed on the roof of Richard Strebinger's net (11.), but Rapid were on top, battling and showing commitment to the shirt that might have been lacking in recent weeks. And the Hütteldorfers got their rewards: A corner from Knasmüllner was met by Sonnleitner, who guided a header inside the far post - 1:0 (31.)! It was a deserved lead for Kühbauer's side, who nearly doubled their advantage, but Pavlovic was again to be denied by keeper Leitner (35.). Admira had a golden chance to equalise on the stroke of half time, but Paintsil spurned the chance, shooting wide after finding himself through on goal.
The lead helped to settle Rapid nerves, and the team came out for the second half visibly boosted thanks to Sonnleitner's goal. With Admira looking toothless in attack, the Hütteldorfers could come forwards securely and begin to rebuild their brittle confidence. Crucially, when the next opportunity presented itself, Rapid capitalised: A short corner between Murg and Knasmüllner was flicked on to Sonnleitner, who forced the ball across the line to grab his second and give Rapid breathing space - 2:0 (62.)! The goal more or less killed the contest, with Admira struggling to create chances, the three points were almost in the bag.
A deflected cross from Knasmüllner and a saved shot from Schwab nearly increased the margin of victory in the closing stages, but the game remained 2:0 and Rapid claimed a deserved victory. The win helps to lift the gloom around the club, and the team will have a chance to build on this positive result on Wednesday when they travel to Styria to take on WAC in the cup.
tipico Bundesliga, 12th round:
SK Rapid - FC Admira 2:0 (1:0)
Allianz Stadion, 14.600 Attendance, Ref Harkam
Goals: 1:0 Sonnleitner (31.), 2:0 Sonnleitner (62.);
SK Rapid: Strebinger – Potzmann, Sonnleitner, Dibon, Bolingoli – Martic, Schwab (72./Ljubicic) – Murg, Knasmüllner, Ivan (89./Guillemenot) – Pavlovic (78./Alar);
FC Admira: Leitner – Zwierschitz, Thoelke, Bauer, L. Malicsek – Vorsager, Toth (79./Kalajdzic), Hjulmand – Sahanek (48./Soiri), Jakolis – Paintsil (68./Bakis);
Yellow Cards: Paintsil, L. Malicsek, Soiri;