Rapid cruise to 4:0 win in St. Pölten
Fresh from a superb victory over Salzburg, Rapid made the short journey to St. Pölten to take on head coach Didi Kühbauer's former club. Nothing less than three points would do for the Hütteldorfers, who needed the win to keep alive their chances of securing a top half finish. Kühbauer had warned his side prior to kick-off that they were in for a tough afternoon, and the assignment was made no less complicated by the absences of Stefan Schwab and Manuel Martic. Max Hofmann reached a proud milestone, taking to the field for the 100th time in Rapid colours.
The travelling Rapid fans no doubt contributed hugely to the attendance in the sold-out stadium, with the Green & White faithful filling far more than just the away end. Straight from kick-off, the Hütteldorfers looked hungrier, sharper and technically superior to their hosts: intelligent play from Murg created the first moment of danger in the game (7.), before Christoph Knasmüllner drew an excellent save from St. Pölten keeper Riegler, who tipped Knasmüllner's rasping drive over the bar for a corner. From the resulting set piece Serbian striker Andrija Pavlovic broke the deadlock, beating his marker to the ball to score with a simple headed chance - 1:0 (11.)! The goal only served to increase Rapid's dominance, and the Green & Whites could've forged further ahead when Grahovac played in Andrei Ivan, who was denied by fine goalkeeping by Riegler (19.). Pavlovic nearly doubled the Viennese' lead soon after, but his deft chip drifted just the wrong side of the post with Riegler looking on helplessly (29.).
Ex-Rapid man Bajrami briefly threatened for the struggling Lower Austrians when he fired wide of Richard Strebinger's goal (40.), but it came as little surprise when Rapid doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time: Philipp Schobesberger, on for the injured Murg, floated a free-kick into the box, the ball flicking off a St. Pölten head to Dejan Ljubicic, who beat Riegler from a narrow angle with a brave header - 2:0 (45.)!
The frustrated home fans would have been looking for an improvement from their side in the second half, but Rapid were not in the mood to yield their iron grip on the contest: incisive football worked the ball to Schobesberger, who drifted past his marker with ease before chipping a delightful inch-perfect ball to the back post for Knasmüllner to round off the move with another simple header from close range - 3:0 (52.)! The same combination nearly provided the Green & Whites with a fourth, but this time Knasmüllner shot wide from a good position (65.). The thousands of Rapid fans packed into the stadium were only forced to wait a further few minutes before celebrating a fourth, when Mario Sonnleitner forced the ball over the line with his knee from a corner - 4:0 (68.).
Matters nearly got worse for the downtrodden hosts when a lifted effort from the effervescent Knasmüllner bounced off the top of the crossbar and behind for a goal kick (77.). New striker Aliou Bajdi was given a run out for the final ten minutes, but with the points safely in the bag there were no further goals. It was a superb afternoon for Rapid and Kühbauer, whose side clinically put to the sword his former employers. The Green & Whites will feel confident of building upon their excellent run of form next weekend when visiting SV Mattersburg. Rapid!
tipico Bundesliga, 20th round:
SKN St. Pölten - SK Rapid 0:4 (0:2)
NV-Arena, 7.195 Attendance, Ref Ouschan
Goals: 0:1 Pavlovic (17.), 0:2 Ljubicic (45.), 0:3 Knasmüllner (52.), 0:4 Sonnleitner (68.);
SKN St. Pölten: Riegler – Meisl, Luan, Drescher – Rasner (79./Luxbacher), Fountas, Mislov, R. Ljubicic (64./Balic), Bajrami – Gartler, Schütz (46./Pak)
SK Rapid: Strebinger – Auer, Sonnleitner, Hofmann, Bolingoli – D. Ljubicic (61./Müldür), Grahovac – Murg (41./Schobesberger), Knasmüllner, Ivan – Pavlovic (77./Badji)
Yellow Cards: Rasner; Murg