1:2: Salzburg strike late to dash our cup dreams
As 2nd round ÖFB Cup ties go, a repeat of last season's final always looked like a mouthwatering prospect for both the players and nearly 20,400 fans alike, but the stakes were high on Wednesday evening at the Allianz Stadium, as someone was guaranteed an early cup exit. With the home side on a handsome run of form, what better test of coach Didi Kühbauer and his players than a visit from Jesse Marsch and his table-topping Salzburgers? The good news was that Rapid had won 5 of their last 6 coming into the game, the bad news; that Salzburg had got the upper hand already this season with a 2-0 win on this very turf back on Bundesliga match day 1.
Rapid ran out with two of their newest faces from the off, with Montenegrin defender Filip Stojkovic making his debut in defence, and Koya Kitagawa lining up in attack alongside top-scorer Taxi Fountas. Elsewhere, youngster Dalibor Velimirovic was called upon once again for a starting berth in a big game, after repaying the faith shown in him by the coach in recent weeks. Sporting Director Zoran Barisic had urged the team to remember the positives from their performance in defeat to Salzburg last time they met, and those words were apparently heeded early on, as Kitagawa linked up with Fountas for the first sight of goal (3.) which resulted in only a scuffed shot on target. Velimirovic went closer though, his header from a corner requiring Salzburg keeper Stankovic to dive down and parry the ball to safety (6.).
The away side began to find their feet as the game went on though, Koita had the ball in the net (11.) before being flagged offside, and Szoboszlai unleashed a low drive from the edge of the box (22.) which needed Strebinger to tip it around the post. Velimirovic did play a lovely lofted pass in to give Fountas a glimspe of goal (27.), however Salzburg could clear, and continue their strong spell. Onguene headed over (30.) and Daka forced Strebinger into a smart near-post stop (36.), but there was no way through before the break.
There were no changes for the second half, and the opening action was similar to the first half too, Fountas finding room near the corner of the area and this time flashing a shot across the face of goal (48.), but suddenly Salzburg hit the front; Szoboszlai converting a free kick by finding the top corner from 25 yards (51.). Just as the game looked like it might slip away from Rapid, our boys fought back hard! After some great combination play down the right from Fountas and Stojkovic, a low cross was met by Koya Kitagawa, with the Japanese striker able to nip in front of his markers to force the ball home from close range (56.) He did have to leave the field after picking up a knock though, but what a way to go, after getting his first goal in Green and White right in front of Block West!
Next came the defining passage of the tie; Velimirovic received a central pass outside the area, took aim, and curled a beautiful effort against the top of the upright (64.). After being inches away from leading 2-1, Rapid were caught on the counter from the rebounding ball, and Stefan Schwab came back too late in a challenge and picked up a second yellow (65.) to leave the guests with a numerical advantage. Teenager Lion Schuster replaced Fountas to mark another debut on the night (67.) as Rapid looked to shore things up in the midfield following the captain's departure. After that, Daka was again denied fantastically by Strebinger when the ball deflected to him in the area (73.) and unsurprisingly Salzburg began to lay siege to the Rapid penalty area. The home defence held up well though, and only close range headers off target from Mwepu (89.) and Prevljak (91.) looked like causing trouble.
With extra time looming, another sending off. Velimirovic leaving the field on a sour note after a fine display, by picking up his own second yellow card to leave our boys 2 players light (93.). And thus began a gruelling 30 minute extra time period of 9 v 11, which to the surprise of nobody, turned out to be an all-out exercise in defending for the home team. Rapid battled valiantly though, and somehow restricted Salzburg to pot-shots, Stephan Auer deflected one wide (92.) and Ramalho came closest (94.) with a fierce attempt, but the crowd made up for the missing men and roared after every clearance, and every save from Strebinger.
Once the 120 minutes were up, and the minds turned towards the nerves of the penalty shoot-out, there was one final act of sudden-death drama. Salzburg’s last throw of the dice saw the ball knocked low in front of the Rapid goal, and Minamino was able to touch it home with the last kick of the game (121.) for the cruellest of cup heartbreaks. The team did us proud even in painful defeat, but finding the positives of an excellent display against the league and cup champions must bring some comfort as we look towards the Bundesliga, and our next game here against TSV Hartberg (29.09 at 17:00).
UNIQA ÖFB Cup, 2. Runde:
SK Rapid - RB Salzburg 1:2 n. V. (1:1, 0:0)
Allianz Stadion, 20.400 Attendance, Ref Eisner
Goals: 0:1 Szoboszlai (50.), 1:1 Kitagawa (56.), 1:2 Minamino (120.);
SK Rapid: Strebinger – Hofmann, Dibon, Barac – Stojkovic (91./Auer), Velimirovic, D. Ljubicic (110./Arase), Schwab, Ullmann – Kitagawa (60./Schobesberger), Fountas (68./Schuster);
RB Salzburg: Stankovic – Kristensen, Ramalho, Onguene, Ulmer (91./Ashimeru) – Szoboszlai, Bernede (18./Mwepu), Junuzovic, Minamino – Daka (83./Prevljak), Koita (61./Okugawa);
Yellow Cards: Ljubicic, Barac, Stojkovic; Minamino, Marsch;
Yellow/Red Cards: Schwab (65./Foul), Velimirovic (90.+4/Foul):