Rapid come through against WAC with another win
After two wins on the bounce (4-0 vs Sturm and 1-0 vs LASK) it was another decisive game against close rivals on match day 26. WAC were the visitors to the Allianz Stadium for a clash of second versus third in the Bundesliga table. Securing a third consecutive victory would allow the Green and Whites to grow the gap to the Carinthian side and cement our foothold on second spot.
Richi Strebinger still hadn’t overcome his recent back troubles, and so he was replaced in goal once again by Tobias Knoflach, and Max Hofmann took over the captain's armband from the suspended Stefan Schwab. After a few changes to the starting XI, Kelvin Arase was on the bench and Koya Kitagawa began alongside Taxi Fountas in attack, with Christoph Knasmüllner also making his way back into the side.
Rapid applied pressure from the off, Leo Greiml heading a Maxi Ullmann corner towards goal before it was blocked (5’), but the guests were not just here to make up the numbers, and as our head coach Didi Kühbauer had warned before the game, they have plenty of dangerous players. Both teams showed their intent to push forward, making for an entertaining game, although the respective qualities of the sides somewhat cancelled each other out, and a few final passes were lacking at either end. Ullmann tried his best to alleviate that issue with a long-range shot (28’) but it was deflected away.
With the finest move of the match, our boys found the key to the WAC defence and took the lead: Knasmüllner served up Fountas on a fast break down the left, before the Greek striker flicked the ball across the area to where Kitagawa had angled his run, allowing him to bury the ball beyond the WAC keeper (36’) for his first Bundesliga goal in Green and White! With the rain increasing towards the end of the first half, we grew further into the game, and Knasmüllner almost increased the lead with a shot from close range which just about stayed out of the goal.
Into the second half, and the chances were still on our side, Fountas set up Knasmüllner once again with the first move after the break, but his shot was just wide. With their first real chance of the game, Wolfsberg equalised. Their potent combination of a Liendl free-kick towards the head of Weissman worked once again (50’), leaving the match all-square rather against the run of play. The game carried on with both teams now in search of an important second goal. Filip Stojkovic hit a shot over the bar from range (60’), before fresh legs were needed in the form of Arase, who replaced goal scorer Kitagawa. A little later Yusuf Demir made his third appearance of the season in a substitution with Thorsten Schick, replacing Fountas and Stojkovic.
The clock ticked to the “Rapid Viertelstunde”, but despite lots of late goals recently, the final phase began badly: Dejan Ljubicic saw yellow for stopping a Wolfsberg counter, and he'll miss the next game just as he’d found a fine run of form. Another Liendl free-kick had hearts-in-mouths for Rapid as it floated just wide of the far post (80’), before Ercan Kara came on for a late run-out. The attacker proved his worth with a hand in the next decisive moment of the game: Greiml dribbled deftly out of the defence, passed to Demir who flicked a perfect pass into the box, and then Kara’s finish beat the keeper but rebounded back off the upright. Luckily for Rapid, Ullmann was there to follow up and score after a deflection from a defender (87’). Rapid led late once again, 2-1!
Demir himself almost added a third with a free-kick (90’), but it remained 2-1: another vital win against direct rivals providing welcome breathing space before the upcoming double-header against Hartberg. On Wednesday we're away in Styria, on Sunday we're back at home. COME ON RAPID!
Bundesliga, 26th round:
SK Rapid - WAC 2:1 (1:0)
Allianz Stadion, Ref Ciochirca
Goals: 1:0 Kitagawa (36.), 1:1 Weissman (50.), 2:1 Ullmann (87.);
SK Rapid: Knoflach – Greiml,Ljubicic, Hofmann – Stojkovic (69./Schick), Grahovac, Petrovic, Ullmann – Knasmüllner (83./Kara) – Kitagawa (63./Arase), Fountas (69./Demir)
WAC: Kofler – Novak, D. Baumgartner, Gollner (90./Gölles), Schmitz – Schmid, M. Leitgeb (90./Wernitznig), Liendl, Jojic (46./Schöfl) – Weissman, Dieng (46./Schmerböck)
Yellow Cards: Petrovic, Ljubicic; M. Leitgeb