Well beaten in Hartberg
There was a party atmosphere in TSV Hartberg's Profertil Arena ahead of SK Rapid’s first ever visit to the newly promoted Styrian club for a league fixture. A cool 1,200 Rapid fans had made the journey, helping to ensure the stadium was packed to the rafters and sold-out well in advance of kick-off.
Our oach Didi Kühbauer sent a side on to the pitch including no less that nine Austrians in the starting line-up, with Boli Bolingoli and Andrija Pavlovic the only two foreigners to make the cut. Hartberg started the game strongly, with Rapid looking shaky from the off. With less than ten minutes on the clock, the hosts had gotten off to a dream start: Florian Sittsam picked up the ball - albeit in a suspiciously offside looking position - from a perfectly weighted pass, and lashed the ball past Richard Strebinger at his near post, 1:0 and a terrible opening to the game for Rapid (9.). Just minutes later Rapid nearly found an equaliser, but an inch perfect low ball across the mouth of the Hartberg goal from Murg was whipped off the toes of the lurking Pavlovic by a defender with the Serbian looking set to score (12.).
Things then got dramatically worse for Kühbauer's side, as Hartberg doubled their lead: more gaps were evident in Rapid’s leaky backline as Tadic stole in between the two centre halves to gather a chipped pass and fire beyond the reach of Strebinger - 2:0 (18.). And it was the home side who continued to look the more likely to score, as a disjointed and lethargic Rapid stumbled towards the break. Mario Sonnleitner headed over from a corner in a rare sight of goal (41.), but the half-time whistle went with the Green & Whites in desperate need of inspiration.
The Rapid bench reacted to the first half's sub-par offering by sending on Andrei Ivan in place of the out-of-sorts Christoph Knasmüllner. Whilst the Hütteldorfers still weren’t at their best, they carried extra threat with the introduction of the Romanian, who, within minutes of his introduction, burst down the left flank to get in one-on-one with Hartberg keeper Swete, only for the goalie to come out on top. The chance failed to spark any sustained pressure from Rapid however, and rather than getting back into the game, they fell even further behind: Hartberg substitute Sanogo displayed great pace as he broke away down Rapid’s left, before putting a low ball across the goalmouth on a plate for Florian Flecker, who tapped home into an empty net to bury a woeful Rapid - 3:0 (65.).
Manuel Thurnwald came into the fray at the expense of Pavlovic, but the change did little to alter the face of the game, with Hartberg still looking the more likely to add to their tally. With the crowd baying for more, Rapid were grateful to Richard Strebinger, who produced a string of stops to apply a measure of damage limitation. Captain Stefan Schwab almost picked up a late consolation after a nice ball from Ivan, but it was all far too little and much too late, as Rapid went down to a painful and worrying defeat at the hands of newly promoted Hartberg.
tipico Bundesliga, 11th round:
Hartberg - SK Rapid 3:0 (2:0)
Profertil-Arena, 5.100 Attendance, Ref Muckenhammer
Goals: 1:0 Sittsam (9.), 2:0 Tadic (17.), 3:0 Flecker (65.);
Hartberg: Swete – Blauensteiner, Huber, Siegl, Rasswalder – Flecker, Ljubic, Sittsam, Kröpfl (81./Ilic) – Rep (89./Rotter), Tadic (65./Sanogo)
SK Rapid: Strebinger – Potzmann, Sonnleitner, Dibon, Bolingoli – Murg, D. Ljubicic, Schwab, Knasmüllner (46./Ivan) – Pavlovic (72./Thurnwald), Alar
Yellow Cards: Ljubic; Schwab