4-1: Winter Friendlies off to a winning start in Wiener Neustadt
Week two of Rapid's winter-break training program brought test-match number one; a friendly against current regional league side Wiener Neustadt at their new stadium, and with free tickets on offer, a healthy crowd of around 1000 people braved the weather to enjoy the occasion. With sub-zero temperatures and a forecast of snow, an unsurprisingly youthful and experimental away side set out to heat things up out on the pitch.
Koya Kitagawa, a recent returnee from his long-term ankle injury, started up front, and could have opened the scoring just moments into the game, only to cushion a close-range volley wide of the post after Bozic's knock-down (2’). Looking to shake off his rustiness and gain some match fitness, the Japanese striker kept plugging away, and when Christoph Knasmüllner nicked a loose ball, he fed Kitagawa inside the box, but the home keeper made a solid block (17’).
Knasmüllner himself had looked dangerous too, shooting across the face of goal a couple of times in the early stages before the hosts opened the scoring against the run of play (25'). A low ball in from the left found a dangerous path, and when Richard Strebinger couldn't hold on, Flögel had the simplest of tasks to knock the ball into the open net for 1-0. Pleasingly, the boys in Green and White fought back level within seconds, when Lion Schuster popped up to nod in a well-placed Knasmüllner free-kick (27’).
Kitagawa wanted his name on that score-sheet in the first half too, but a swift turn and shot from the edge of the box saw the ball sail just wide of the post with the keeper well beaten (36’). The threat didn’t subside though, and after a blistering 3-man break involving Kitagawa once more and Yusuf Demir, Bozic hit the final shot past the far post (40’), before Demir watched on as his deflected effort looped up and just over the crossbar (42’).
Before the first half was up, Rapid had the lead that we deserved, and with a nice goal too! Max Hofmann connected with a deep cross at the back post, and once his volley had been parried, Knasmüllner picked up the rebound and curled a shot impressively up and over into the far corner of the net for 2-1 (43’). Kitagawa still had time for one last shot just wide of the goal, but he would remain as one of just two players to continue after the break anyway.
Early in the second period, Coach Didi Kühbauer’s new-look side extended the advantage, Melih Ibrahimoglu keeping his cool to send the goalie the wrong way and slot in for 3-1 following some crisp passing play (51’). Rapid keeper Knoflach still had his work to do though, not least from a clever free-kick under the wall which needed to be turned behind for a corner (56’). Taxi Fountas was on the field making his presence known by now, and he played his part in a quick counter which ended with Wunsch delivering an accurate cutback for Srdjan Grahovac to sweep home for 4-1 (70’).
A whole host of rolling substitutes took the pace out of the game from then on, but gave plenty of players some important minutes on the field, and Fountas' blocked shot from a tight angle proved to be one of the final chances of the match (80’). So Rapid were left to head back to Vienna victorious in their first winter friendly, as the promised snow finally began to fall.
Fotos: Red Ring Shots.
SC Wiener Neustadt - SK Rapid 1:4 (1:2)
Arena Wiener Neustadt, 1000 Attendance
Goals: 1:0 Flögel (25.), 1:1 Schuster (27.), 1:2 Knasmüllner (43.), 1:3 Ibrahimoglu (51.), 1:4 Grahovac (70.);
SK Rapid: Strebinger (46. Knoflach); Stojkovic (46. Barac), Greiml (46. Martic), Hofmann (46. Sonnleitner), Hajdari; Schuster (46. Grahovac), Schwab (46. Ibrahmoglu); Demir (46. Wunsch), Knasmüllner (46. Fountas), Bozic (46. Ullmann); Kitagawa (78. Demir);