Rapid rue late Salzburg set piece
The fact that Rapid and Salzburg had an identical record from their last six Bundesliga games (4 wins 2 draws) suggested that Sunday's meeting would be a close run thing, and with the game being the 5th competitive meeting between the sides in 2019, Rapid headed to Salzburg to face more than familiar opponents.
Our Coach Didi Kühbauer made only one change to the starting XI from the draw against WAC on match day 11, with Dalibor Velimirovic starting in midfield as part of a 3-1-4-2 formation and Christoph Knasmüllner pushed up front to partner top-scorer Taxi Fountas.
The boys in Green and White made the most of their extra attacking midfield presence, and started the game on the front foot, although Salzburg tested goalkeeper Richi Strebinger first, when a chipped cross from Kristensen needed pushing onto the bar (6.). Fountas was then set up by Knasmüllner just outside the area, but his dragged shot failed to trouble Salzburg’s replacement keeper Coronel (10.). With both teams trying their best to push forward quickly, Strebinger did well to deny the league's top-scorer Haaland after he broke through one on one with a stroke of fortune (11.), and Maximilian Hofmann blocked well from the same player five minutes later.
As Salzburg began to exert more pressure, Rapid’s back three each made crucial interventions, and looked well organised and highly disciplined; that was, until a disastrous few minutes of dramatic football. On the half hour mark, Haaland was released in the area by a through ball, and Strebinger was second on the scene, giving the hosts a penalty which Szoboszlai just managed to convert for 1:0 (32.). Events repeated themselves seconds later, and this time Mateo Barac was the one who felled the Norwegian for a second penalty. Hwang shot low this time, and Strebinger got down quickly to his left to make a huge stop (34.), giving the nearby Rapid supporters reason to cheer!
Just five minutes later though, Hwang atoned for his miss by playing a one-two pass with Haaland, who drove his low shot in through the legs of Strebinger for 2:0 (38.). Rapid were certainly on the ropes against the champions, but the mark of a great fighter is how they react in moments of adversity. Rather than give in against the attacking power of Salzburg, our boys came roaring back, breathing new life into the game at a vital moment when captain Stefan Schwab headed a long ball across the area, and Knasmüllner showed his hunger by beating Onguene to nod the ball in at the near post (45+1.) to leave Rapid in touch, 2:1 down at the break.
In the second period, Salzburg came close early on, with Barac able to clear a deflected effort from a few yards out (49.) and Haaland firing over the bar from close range, too (55.). Cheered on by the vocal away support, Rapid refused to give up, and took hold of the game as it progressed. Fountas pinched the ball from Onguene but couldn’t quite break free on his own (57.), and around the hour mark, he and Knasmüllner were replaced by Arase and Badji, a statement of attacking intent.
As it happened, it was Schwab who had the next sight of goal, poking wide under heavy pressure (76.) inside the area. Arase's advances caused constant trouble for the Salzburg defence, but it was Badji who had to be denied by an onrushing Coronel (82.) after a searching through ball from Schwab. With time running out, a half-volley from Maximilian Ullmann flashed through a crowded area, but went agonisingly wide of the target (86.). Rapid showed no signs of surrender though, and Schwab took his time to deliver a perfect free kick into the area, with Barac there at the back to head home the equaliser (87.) and send the away fans into a frenzy! Cruelly, with the last break of the game, Salzburg won a free kick of their own on the edge of the area, and when Junuzovic found the top corner (90+3.) there was simply no time left for another rousing comeback.
Captain Schwab said after the game: "It hurts… We had the chance to take a point. We also wanted to win 3:2, but it’s not like we committed everyone forward, we still took care of the defence.” And of Salzburg’s winning goal he added: “We should have stopped their break further down the field. It’s unlucky. But we’re on the way up, and we’re playing better every game." Even in the disappointment of another late defeat, the commitment and character of this side is starting to show through more and more. We’re getting closer!
Bundesliga, 12th round:
RB Salzburg - SK Rapid 3:2 (2:1)
Wals-Siezenheim, Red Bull Arena, 17.218 Attendance, Ref Drachta
Goals: 1:0 Szoboszlai (31./Elfmeter), 2:0 Haaland (38.), 2:1 Knasmüllner (45.+1), 2:2 Barac (87.), 3:2 Junuzovic (94.);
RB Salzburg: Coronel – Pongracic, Onguene, Wöber – Kristensen, Junuzovic, Ulmer – Minamino (66./Mwepu), Szoboszlai (89./Koita) – Hwang, Haaland (75./Daka)
SK Rapid: Strebinger – Hofmann, Dibon, Barac – Stojkovic, Velimirovic, D. Ljubicic, Schwab, Ullmann – Knasmüllner (58./Arase), Fountas (63./Badji)
Yellow Card: Haaland;