Rapid record comfortable away win
Rapid met the newly named WSG Tirol for the first time in almost 50 years on Saturday, looking to improve upon a historical 4/2 record over the side from the west of the country. The players and more than 800 Rapid fans alike headed to Innsbruck full of confidence after picking up four wins in their last five matches.
Coach Kühbauer retained the 4-2-3-1 line up which was so successful against Admira on match day 7, but changed a few faces in the starting XI. Richard Strebinger returned in goal after a minor heart procedure, Aliou Badji was called upon to start after recent goals as a substitute, and Thomas Murg got the nod instead of top scorer Taxi Fountas.
In the opening phase of the game, Rapid - in their red and blue away colours - took the initiative, yet it was Strebinger who was called into action first, having to intervene to punch away a deep corner kick under siege from a host of attacking players. Our first good chance going forward came courtesy of a clever through pass from Stephan Auer which found Thomas Murg on the right of the 6-yard box, but he could only flash a shot across the face of Ferdinand Oswald's goal (13.) A few minutes later and that man Murg was again on the receiving end of a delightful pass, this time from Mateo Barac, but his cushioned attempt at a cross was cut out by the keeper before Christoph Knasmüllner could get involved (15.).
As the first half wore on, Rapid's red shirts remained the dominant force despite more than a few passes going astray in the final third. The away side enjoyed the lion's share of possession and a favourable percentage of challenges won, and yet it was Tirol's Florian Rieder who had the first clear-cut chance of the match (30.), but when Michael Svoboda picked him out on the edge of the area his left-footed shot was parried by the returning Rapid keeper. Philipp Schobesberger had Rapid's best chance in the remainder of the half, however his half-volley from Badji’s deflected cross didn’t find the target (36.), and so 0-0 it remained at the break.
Perhaps surprisingly, neither coach decided to make any changes at half time, although Murg only lasted 5 minutes of the second period after picking up a knock in the first, and he was replaced by Kelvin Arase. Just moments after that, our trusty captain Stefan Schwab sparked some life into the tie with a dipping effort from the edge of the area (52.), which needed Oswald to parry the ball behind for a corner.
Not long later it was Schwab once more who dinked a delightful pass in towards Arase near the penalty spot, and when the substitute used his first touch to cut back behind the Tirol defenders, he left himself enough space to squeeze the ball into the right-hand corner for his maiden Bundesliga goal, breaking the deadlock in the process (54.). Rapid only turned up the heat from that moment onwards, and five minutes later Stephan Auer's cross fell to Schobesberger, who had a good chance to extend the lead from 10 yards out, but he couldn’t get enough power behind his shot.
Fountas joined the action in place of Knasmüllner a little after the hour mark, and as Rapid continued to press forward, Stefan Schwab came up with a second assist of the day, delivering an inch-perfect free-kick from a narrow angle towards the back post, where Mateo Barac was able to sneak in unnoticed to side-foot home for a deserved 2-0 lead (71.)! After that, we never looked likely to relinquish the lead, and in fact only looked more like adding a third! In injury time Kelvin Arase broke forward powerfully from the back, but once he fed the ball to Fountas, keeper Oswald came up with a good block, and Arase chipped the follow-up just over the bar with Koya Kitagawa waiting in space. There really wasn’t much to complain about though, with Rapid securing a fifth victory in six Bundesliga games to go second in the table on Saturday night!
Next up, it's RB Salzburg at home in the ÖFB Cup (25.09, 20:45), and we could hardly be in better form ahead of a repeat of last season's final.
tipico Bundesliga, 8th round:
WSG Wattens - SK Rapid 0:2 (0:0)
Tivoli Stadion Tirol, 5.240 Attendance, Ref Drachta
Goals: 0:1 Arase (54.), 0:2 Barac (71.);
WSG Wattens: Oswald - Svoboda, Gugganig, Cabrera, Buchacher - Hager, Rieder - Santin, Grgic, Pranter - Dedic;
SK Rapid: Strebinger - Auer, Dibon, Barac, Ullmann - Schwab (C), Ljubicic - Schobesberger, Knasmüllner (65. Fountas), Murg (70. Arase) - Badji (77. Kitagawa);
Yellow Cards: Cabrera, Gugganig;