A point hard-earned with Hofmann’s injury-time heroics
Riding high on confidence after an eight-game unbeaten stretch, third-placed Rapid traveled to Carinthia for a match against our nearest rivals in the table. Wolfsberger AC lay just two points behind going into the final round of the regular season, and we wanted to stay firmly seated in the top three for the start of the Championship Round. Following on from last weekend's 3-1 victory over Mattersburg, head coach Didi Kühbauer had a pretty much full strength side at his disposal, and he opted to start with his strongest possible XI.
In the windy spring weather, the hosts got off to the better start, but they could only register deflected shots on goal from Schmid and Liendl early on. Far more dangerous was an attempt from league top-scorer Weissman which whistled over the bar from range (20’), and an effort from Schmidt after a touch of luck on the ball in the box, but thankfully Richi Strebinger was there to make an important stop with his foot (26’). Once Liendl had fired a free-kick wide of the Rapid goal (33’), it seemed that the scoreline would be 0-0 at the break. Both teams had begun to cancel each other out, and concrete chances on goal were few and far-between, until injury-time, that is! Firstly, Taxi Fountas nipped in smartly to intercept a poor Rnic backpass and slot the ball home for 1-0 (45’)! Sadly that lead lasted just seconds, because with the last action of the half Weissman got up to head a set-piece delivery, and gave Strebinger no chance by planting it in the corner (45’).
After the break Christopher Dibon had to stay in the changing rooms; the vice-captain had gone off shortly before half time with a gash to his foot, and he was immediately given stitches, and Max Hofmann came on in his place for the second period (more on him later!). In terms of the game itself, not too much changed initially; both teams were trying their best to go forward, but neither team was giving an inch. The best chance fell to the foot of Kelvin Arase, who volleyed a Christoph Knasmüllner cross wide of the far post (58’). Shortly afterwards, our goalscorer Fountas had to leave the field of play - he was feeling dazed after a hard collision with Rnic, and had to be replaced by Koya Kitagawa up-front.
With time ticking on, Rapid again conceded from a set-play. Just as in the first half, Liendl floated a free-kick into the area, Weissman got his head on it, and the ball took a crucial deflection on its way in for 2-1 to the hosts (73’). The Israeli striker could have sealed the deal soon after, but Strebinger fended off his shot and kept us in the game (75’). As the game went into injury-time we were still only trailing by one, until a ball into the area found substitute Thorsten Schick. He headed over to super-sub Max Hofmann, and the centre-back buried it to tie things up at 2-2 (90’+1)! Another injury-time goal for the Green and Whites to cheer! That was the last meaningful action of the game, and it was soon all over. 2-2 and a point gained, enough to keep use ahead of WAC in the table, and to preserve our unbeaten run. Not a bad way to close out the regular season, now bring on the Championship Round!
Bundesliga, 22nd round:
WAC - SK Rapid 2:2 (1:1)
Lavanttal-Arena, 5.718 Attendance, Ref Ciochirca
Goals: 0:1 (45.+1) Fountas, 1:1 (45.+3) Weissman, 2:1 (73.) Weissman, 2:2 (91.) Hofmann;
WAC: Kuttin – Novak, Rnic, Vieira (83. Gollner), Schmitz – Jojic, Sprangler, Liendl, Schmid (91. Wernitznig) – A. Schmidt (52. Holzer), Weissman;
SK Rapid: Strebinger – Stojkovic, Dibon (41. Hofmann), Barac, Ullmann – Petrovic, Schwab – Murg (62. Schick), Knasmüllner, Arase – Fountas (70. Kitagawa);
Yellow Cards: Holzer; Petrovic