Bitter defeat at the hands of Hartberg
The double match-weeks were going well for Rapid, with four straight wins since the initial defeat to Salzburg on match day 23, but with injuries making their mark on coach Didi Kühbauer's starters for many weeks now, it was a surprise to few that attacking duo Kelvin Arase and Taxi Fountas would miss out on Sunday's game; the second round of our battle with TSV Hartberg.
After a narrow but bruising 1-0 win away there, Rapid would need to find goals from another source than top-scorer Fountas. Ercan Kara and the dynamo Yusif Demir started in attacking roles, and it was the youngster who had the first shot of the match, displaying his confidence and character with a neat turn and an attempt from the edge of the area (5’) when a lay-off looked the likelier option. Hartberg showed their own attacking intent with a break and a deep cross leaving Tadic with a golden chance (9’) before a Rapid boot deflected his close range finish away from goal.
After that scare, our boys pressed on and created most of the chances. The best of the first half fell to Christoph Knasmüllner, who was sent through on goal, but saw his low strike saved by Hartberg keeper Swete (13’). Knasmüllner then had a chance to be the provider, but his low cut-back from the byline found a defender rather than the well-placed Demir (19’). Rep reminded Rapid of the away team’s threat with a rising drive that just evaded Tobias Knoflach's top-corner (26’), but once again it was the Green and White shirts who looked most likely to score.
Knasmüllner and Demir had another agonising blocked cross situation (31’) before Stefan Schwab played a delicate one-two to carve out some space in the area, before poking a volley just past the post (32’). The long shots that were saved easily or sailed just wide had added up by now, and those missed opportunities were eventually punished. Hartberg hit the front as possession turned over quickly, and a through-pass to Tadic left the stiker with time to pick out the bottom corner and give the away side a lead against the run of play (42’).
For the second half Koya Kitagawa replaced Kara, and almost immediately we had chances again. Thorsten Schick fired in a teasing cross, with Demir sliding in from the six-yard box (46’) but the ball glanced wide of the post. Kitagawa couldn't connect well with another dangerous low cross (49’), and after that, Hartberg began to close off space and sit back on their lead.
Coach Kühbauer and his team reacted around the hour-mark by bringing on attacker Dragoljub Savic for his first professional appearance, as well as Dejan Petrovic. Kitagawa took a decent snapshot on goal (70’) but overall the chances were thinning out on our side, and time was running out. We kept pushing on in the final 15 minutes, and Schwab fed Filip Stojkovic who beat Swete, but yet again the cut-back into the box was blocked rather than finding a Rapid boot (78’). Paul Gobara was the next young player to get a taste of the action (80’), but Hartberg were happy to defend in numbers and wait for a counter chance.
Breaking down the resistance proved impossible on the day. Schwab did have the ball in the net (90’) but the offside flag was up and so Rapid were consigned to their first defeat in five games, a tough one to take when you look at the table and where we could have been before the next game.
That game is a rematch with league leaders Red Bull Salzburg on Wednesday, where we’ll give it our all to go for the win!
Photos: GEPA Pictures.
Bundesliga, 28th round:
SK Rapid - TSV Hartberg 0:1 (0:1)
Allianz Stadion, Ref Drachta
Goal: 0:1 Tadic (42.)
SK Rapid: Knoflach – Stojkovic (80./Gobara), D. Ljubicic, Hofmann – Schick, Grahovac (62./Petrovic), Schwab, Ullmann – Demir (81./Auer), Kara (46./Kitagawa), Knasmüllner (62./Savic);
TSV Hartberg: Swete – Kainz (78./Tschernegg), Rotter, Luckeneder, Klem – Nimaga – Gabbichler (46./Dossou), Ried (46. Lienhart) Rep, Dante (84./Huber) – Tadic (57./Kröpfl);
Yellow Cards: Grahovac; Nimaga