0:1 - St. Pölten inflict shock home defeat
After two top games in recent weeks against RB Salzburg (2:3) and WAC (1:1), next up we hosted SKN St. Pölten. Although they were the league’s bottom club, a deceptively tricky task awaited us at home, as evidenced by Rapid’s previous results again the Lower Austrians. The most recent meeting earlier this season ended in a 2:2 draw, and last season we suffered a 2:0 defeat at home, but won 4:0 away. Nothing was to be taken for granted on Saturday.
Thomas Murg returned to the starting eleven for this one after making his comeback against WAC two weeks ago, Philipp Schobesberger wasn't back at match fitness yet, and so he missed out as expected. Taxi Fountas also had to miss the duel against his former club due to a slight knee problem, discovered at late notice. The guests created the first chance when Pak had a shot from in front of Richi Strebinger, but our keeper held on at the second attempt (2.). Rapid replied with attempts of our own through Christoph Knasmüllner and Max Ullmann, both of whom had efforts blocked (8.), before a penalty appeal fell on deaf ears after Knasmüllner went down in the box following some neat link up play (9.).
There were a number of half-chances going forward, such as Filip Stojkovic’s header (22.), but we had to be careful in defence too. Pak once again had a go at goal, this time with a powerful effort from the corner of the box (27.) which ended up over the bar, and Drescher’s header from a corner flew just wide (34.). For both teams, the best chances came in the period before half time. Knasmüllner was on the end of a pinpoint cross from Ullmann, but after pivoting well in the air, his header sailed past the far post (35.). Meisl then hit the right-angle of the bar with a header of his own for the visitors (44.). Right on the whistle, Aliou Badji had a chance from just in front of the 6-yard box (45.), but couldn’t control the rebounding ball well enough to convert.
After the break, the 20,400 fans saw Rapid continue their push for the 3 points, but breaking down the stubborn St. Pölten defence proved difficult, and the game wore on into a battle of attrition, with few clear-cut chances for either side. The guests took advantage of this, content to sit back and strike on the counter, so Rapid remained on the front foot, but without the cutting edge to apply heavy pressure. When one or two half-chances did fall our way, that final touch was always missing, for instance when Knasmüllner couldn’t force Stojkovic’s cross over the line in a close range scramble (70.), or when Badji’s shot ended up in the crowd (72.).
Worse still for Rapid came just before our famous final 15 minutes. Instead of pushing on for the win, we were unfortunate enough to fall behind. A corner was only cleared to the edge of the area, where Balic was waiting to fire in a low shot (74). There appeared to be two St. Pölten players impeding Strebinger from offside positions, but the refereeing team decided to let it go, and the Lower Austrians led. As the clock ticked down, it became clear that Rapid couldn’t find a way through, despite continued efforts such as Ullmann's volley (80.). It finished in a disappointing 1:0 home defeat, a result which prevented us from pushing up towards the top 3 places, for now at least. Up next, it’s an important away trip all the way to Altach.
tipico Bundesliga, 13th round:
SK Rapid - SKN St. Pölten 0:1 (0:0)
Allianz Stadion, 20.400 Attendance, Ref Schüttengruber
Goal: 0:1 (74.) Balic
SK Rapid: Strebinger – Hofmann (62. Arase), Dibon, Barac – Stojkovic (75. Auer), Murg, D. Ljubicic, Schwab, Ullmann – Badji, Knasmüllner (80. Ibrahimoglu);
SKN St. Pölten: Riegler – Ingolitsch, Meisl, Drescher, Muhamedbegovic, Davies (69. Rasner) – Luxbacher (50. R. Ljubicic), Hofbauer (74. Messerer), Ambichl – Balic, Pak;
Yellow Cards: Hofmann, Auer; Hofbauer;