Cup final: Rapid win thriller against LASK!
Just one game stood before the Hütteldorfers and a cup final appearance in Vienna: Pasching was the venue and LASK the opposition in a UNIQA ÖFB Cup semi-final that had sold out weeks in advance. Shortly before the match Boli Bolingoli had to pull out through illness, whilst Head Coach Didi Kühbauer gave a full debut to recently recruited striker Aliou Badji. Stefan Schwab was tasked with supplying the midfield creativity, behind the skipper were steely duo Dejan Ljubicic and Srdjan Grahovac. What the high-tempo opening to the match lacked in finesse, it certainly made up for in commitment and effort, with both sides going at each other from the off.
The first chance of the game fell to the hosts on the quarter hour mark, and led to the opening goal: Goiginger received the ball on the right-hand side of the Rapid penalty area, cut inside his marker and beat Strebinger with a hard, low shot across the Rapid keeper and into the far corner - 1:0 (15.). The Upper Austrian side then took the game by the scruff of the neck, with Strebinger doing remarkably well to repel a shot from a tight angle from Joao Victor (20.). At the other end of the field Schwab headed a Schobesberger free-kick wide of the target as the Green & Whites registered their first attempt on goal (21.).
But it was the hosts who continued to create the real chances: Goiginger shot wide (29.), Richard Strebinger saved from Klauss (31.) and Holland hammered an effort just wide of the target (33.) as LASK ramped up the pressure. Goiginger came within inches of scoring again, thumping the underside of bar after a swift counter from Linz (42.). The arrival of half-time was welcome for Rapid, who needed to regroup and offer a better showing in the second period if they were going to turn the game.
But the break did little to interrupt LASK’s momentum though, and Rapid were quickly on the back foot again after the restart, with Goiginger pulling the strings. Against the run of play, the Green & Whites were suddenly back on terms: a corner skimmed off the heads of a clutch of players to the back post, where Max Hofmann turned the ball into an empty net - 1:1 (54.)! The goal seemed to take the sting out of a Linz side that lost some of their swagger, but Rapid continued to ride their luck somewhat, when a long range piledriver from Wiesinger crashed off the crossbar and away to safety (64.).
The Rapid bench sought to change the pattern of the game and made an attacking sub, replacing Ljubicic with Knasmüllner and shortly afterwards Pavlovic was sent on for the industrious Badji up front. Rapid started coming forwards against their stiffening opponents, looking to snatch a killer goal. As the game headed into injury time controversy struck: a wild challenge from LASK's Michorl on Thomas Murg saw the Linz man given just a yellow by the referee, but in the melee that followed Hofmann was given a red for his reaction to the decision. The centre back will now miss the league game against Innsbruck.
So the ten men of Rapid were left to a further thirty minutes of football. Being a man light, Mateo Barac was introduced at the expense of Knasmüllner as Kühbauer sought to shore up the defence. Just sixty-seconds into extra time, heroic defending from Mert Müldür kept Rapid level, with the defender dramatically clearing off the line just as it looked like Klauss’s shot would trickle into the net (91.). The rest of the half passed with Rapid looking decent at the back, the only moment of anguish saw a Linz header correctly chalked off for offside. Neither team could find a way through in the second half of extra time so the game went to penalties. Two LASK players missed their spot-kicks, presenting substitute Mateo Barac with the chance to win it for Rapid. The centre-back coolly sent the keeper the wrong way and doing so he booked a date with RB Salzburg in Vienna on 1 May! RAPID!!
UNIQA ÖFB Cup:
LASK - SK Rapid 1:1 n.V, 3:4 i.E. (1:1, 1:0)
TGW-Arena, 6.087 Attendance, Ref Hameter
Goals: 1:0 Goiginger (16.), 1:1 Hofmann (54.);
LASK: A. Schlager – Ramsebner, Trauner, Wiesinger – Ranftl, Holland, Michorl, Ullmann – Goiginger, Klauss (101./Tetteh), Joao Victor (97./Frieser);
SK Rapid: Strebinger – Müldür, Sonnleitner, Hofmann, Auer – Grahovac, D. Ljubicic (65./Knasmüllner/91. Barac) – Murg, Schwab, Schobesberger (106./Potzmann) – Badji (82./Pavlovic);
Yellow Cards: Ramsebner, Michorl; Pavlovic, Auer;
Red Cards: Ranftl; Hofmann;