Five-star Rapid blow Hartberg away to reach cup semi-finals!
Rapid Head Coach Didi Kühbauer shuffled his pack for visit of TSV Hartberg to Vienna on Sunday in the quarter finals of the UNIQA ÖFB Cup. There were no less than six changes to the side that faced Inter Milan on Thursday, with Kühbauer opting for a much more attacking line up. Over 12,500 fans filed into the Allianz Stadium, as Rapid now took on the role of overwhelming favourites to the reach the last four of the cup. The Hütteldorfers got on the ball and dominated possession from the get-go, but it took a while before they could start unpicking the guests' defence.
The Green & Whites looked to utilise the pace and power of Boli Bolingoli down the flanks, and it was the full-backs' low cross that signalled the first moment of danger in the match. The Belgian then registered the first shot of the game, firing well over the bar with his weaker right foot after being found by a cut-back from Christoph Knasmüllner. It took until the half-hour mark for Rapid to find their rhythm, but as they did Hartberg started coming under increasing pressure: Philipp Schobesberger's eyes lit up as he tried to force the ball over the line from close range after collecting a low cross, but the scrambling defence smothered the chance. A good run from Thomas Murg saw him jink past a couple of Hartberg defenders before testing keeper Swete low down to his right (33.). The resulting corner fell to Sonnleitner, who again stung the palms of the Hartberg goalie (33.).
It looked like a goal was in the offing for Rapid, and when it came it did so via some sublime football: A quick break down the right wing saw Auer feed the ball into Pavlovic. The Serb punctured the visiting defence with a superb cushioned pass into the path of Murg, who took a touch before easily sliding the ball past Swete and into the far-left corner – 1:0 (42.)!
If Rapid had been made to work hard for the first goal, the second - which came at the start of the second half - was a gift: the Hartberg full back fell asleep on the ball, was robbed on the edge of the box, and Rapid ruthlessly punished the error as Schobesberger and Pavlovic combined, slicing apart the guests' defence with a one-two allowing Pavlovic to slide the ball into an empty net - 2:0 (49.)! With the second goal the floodgates threatened to open, and Rapid quickly grabbed another: a deep cross into the box from Thomas Murg was met at the back post by Max Hofmann, who beat his man to head the ball beyond Swete - 3:0 (52.)! The chances continued to come for the Hütteldorfers: Schobesberger got his angles just wrong as he tried to lift the ball over the Hartberg keeper after latching on to a Bolingoli pass (60.), whilst Swete pulled off a great save to tip a volley from Stefan Schwab onto the post (66.).
With a little over twenty minutes to play the unfortunate Manuel Martic put a miscued clearance through his own net to make it 3:1 (69.), but Rapid's place in the semi-finals never really looked under threat. And within a matter of minutes they had restored their three-goal cushion: Pavlovic started and finished the move, sweeping the ball out to Andrei Ivan on the left flank, then getting himself into the box and sending a cross from Auer looping over the helpless Swete to net his second and Rapid's fourth - 4:1 (74.)! Hartberg, to their credit, refused to let their heads drop and grabbed a consolation when Rasswalder rounded off a sweet attacking move with a thumping finishing into the roof of the net - 4:2 (82.). Fittingly, the final word of the evening went to Rapid, when Thomas Murg bent a beautiful shot from outside the area into the top left-hand corner of the goal - 5:2 and a super strike that ended the evening on a high (92.)!
It was a superb attacking display by the Green & Whites, who comfortably swept the opposition aside to storm into the final four. LASK lie in wait in the semi-finals and will provide an altogether sterner challenge than that posed by Hartberg. Rapid will travel to Pasching for the game on either 2nd / 3rd April. Rapid!
UNIQA ÖFB Cup, Quarter final:
SK Rapid - TSV Hartberg 5:2 (1:0)
Allianz Stadion, 12.700 Attendance, Ref Jäger
Goals: 1:0 Murg (42.), 2:0 Pavlovic (50.), 3:0 Hofmann (52.), 3:1 Martic (69./Eigentor), 4:1 Pavlovic (74.), 4:2 Rasswalder (87.), 5:2 Murg (91.);
SK Rapid: Strebinger – Auer, Sonnleitner, Hofmann, Bolingoli (68./Müldür) – Martic, Schwab – Murg, Knasmüllner, Schobesberger (68./Ivan) – Pavlovic (77./);
TSV Hartberg: Swete – Blauensteiner, Huber, Siegl, Rasswalder (87./Ilic) – Tschernegg, Sittsam (53./Sanogo) – Flecker, Rep, Kröpfl – Tadic (78./Skenderovic);
Yellow Cards: Murg, Müldür bzw. Rasswalder, Rep;