Convincing performance sees off SVM
Saturday's clash with SV Mattersburg in the Allianz Stadium didn't simply represent another duel against a fierce local rival and a chance to avenge a recent away defeat: owing to the new structure of the league, the Burgenland side are now Rapid’s closest competitors in the race for top spot in the qualification group. Before kick-off the Green & Whites had a two-point lead over their opponents and nothing less than extending this to five points would do.
The suspended Max Hofmann was unavailable to Head Coach Didi Kühbauer following his sending off during the cup semi-final win over LASK. In his place came Christopher Dibon, who celebrated his 100th league appearance for the club. Up front, it was Aliou Badji who got the nod from Kühbauer. And it was the Senegalese striker who had the first opportunity of the match: Stefan Schwab slid a measured ball into Badji, who lifted the ball over onrushing Mattersburg keeper Casali, only for a defender to follow in and clear the ball off the line (8.). Mattersburg's first attempt arrived through a shot from Renner that came uncomfortably close for Richard Strebinger but which ultimately found the side-netting (10). Other than that one moment of danger the Rapid keeper would have a largely quiet afternoon.
Thomas Murg was next up, rifling a shot from long range narrowly over the Mattersburg crossbar (17.), before Christoph Knasmüllner's attempt was charged down by a tightly packed SVM defence (20.). A good burst into the box then afforded Thomas Murg another shooting opportunity, but the forward strangled his shot, pulling it wide of the far post (30.). The effort summarised the first half: Rapid had been in control but had struggled to convert possession into solid openings.
The second half brought new impetus and an improved cutting edge. An early cross from Murg was headed over by Knasmüllner, who guided his attempt over the bar missing out on a huge gap at the near post (47.). With the Mattersburg defence creaking under increasing pressure, Rapid finally found the breakthrough: good work from Boli Bolingoli saw the ball fed into Murg in the penalty area, Murg in turn rolled a teasing ball beyond the reach of a defender’s outstretched leg to the waiting Knasmüllner, who had the simple task of tapping into an empty net to give his side the lead - 1:0 (53.)! Only an outstanding save from keeper Casali prevented Rapid doubling their lead two minutes later, as he dived full length to tip a header from Aliou Badji round the post (55.). The Hütteldorfers weren’t to be denied though: Knasmüllner was the architect as he turned provider for Murg, who took a touch before slotting the ball low across Casali and into the far corner with his favoured left foot - 2:0 (60.)!
With a two-goal cushion, Rapid never looked like offering a largely toothless Mattersburg side back into the contest. The visitors did grab a consolation though as the game headed into injury time, when Höller stabbed home from close range following a scramble from a corner – 2:1 (89.). The comeback was never on though, and Rapid recorded a welcome and convincing three points that tightens their grip on top spot in the group. RAPID!!
tipico Bundesliga, 25th round:
SK Rapid - SV Mattersburg 2:1 (0:0)
Allianz Stadion, 12.300 Attendance, Ref Ciochirca
Goals: 1:0 Knasmüllner (53.), 2:0 Murg (60.), 2:1 Höller (89.);
SK Rapid: Strebinger – Müldür, Sonnleitner, Dibon, Bolingoli – Grahovac, Schwab (72./ Ljubicic) – Murg, Knasmüllner (77./Alar), Schobesberger – Badji (84./Pavlovic);
SV Mattersburg: Casali – Fran, Mahrer, Ortiz (71./Malic), Renner – Jano – Gruber, Kvasina, Erhardt (78./Grgic), Ertlthaler (57./Höller) – Pusic;
Yellow Cards: Schwab, Bolingoli; Mahrer, Renner, Gruber