Rapid fall to defeat on the final day
Before the final day of the season down in Wolfsberg, we had the luxury of knowing that a European place - more specifically a qualifying place in the top-tier UEFA Champions League - was secure. For our opponents WAC the fight to reach the UEFA Europa League was still ongoing, and they would be determined to get the job done on match day 32.
As expected, Rapid made some changes to the starting line-up: Paul Gartler made another appearance in goal to give some respite to Tobias Knoflach, Dalibor Velimirovic featured again, whilst Filip Stojkovic - whose wife is expecting a baby - was left out of the match day squad. Our team, taking to the field in their red and blue away shirts, were playing free of pressure, with WAC needing a win to have any chance of reaching third place.
From the start the hosts looked like a side in need of points, Liendl shot low but Gartler got his first taste of the action to hold on (2’), before remaining alert to make an excellent reaction stop from a Weissman header (11’). The pressure was mounting, but unfortunately it was our error that allowed WAC to take the lead. After a cross was brought down just behind Velimirovic, he prodded it back towards goal and just past Gartler's coverage, allowing Schmerböck to roll in unchallenged (23’). We tried to get back in the game, but Christoph Knasmüllner's high ball-in evaded Taxi Fountas and everyone else (26’). A few minutes later we fell further behind: a lofted pass found Liendl in space on the right, and his cross was headed in at the back post by Wernitznig, who played the ball across the run of keeper Gartler (33’). We survived a further onslaught before the break, with Liendl crashing a free-kick back off the bar (44’) before Weissman had a shot deflected over (45’).
With a few pairs of fresh legs to combat the heat, we got going in the second half; Adrian Hajdari and Kelvin Arase replaced Velimirovic and Knasmüllner respectively, and we almost brought the tie to life! Leo Greiml knocked forward a pass after a corner ball, and Fountas didn't connect properly, with the ball only going past the right angle of the goal (52’). At the other end, Gartler came away from goal to sweep up in defence and Weissman almost returned his clearance, hitting the roof of the net instead (53’).
We needed a new change, and Koya Kitagawa was the player chosen to come on. Sadly for us though, league top scorer Weissman made the next meaningful impact, dinking a finish over Gartler from the right for 3-0 (72’). Then, after Thorsten Schick cushioned a header into his path, Kitagawa brought the ball under control well and tucked it past Kofler from close range for at least a welcome consolation goal (74’). A few chances were still left in the game, substitute Stephan Auer couldn't steer in at the back post from a ricocheted ball (80’), and Gartler produced a fine reaction stop to deny Dieng in injury time. And so we closed out the season with a 3-1 defeat, but can look back on a solid campaign and a creditable runners-up finish in difficult circumstances.
We bid farewell to 2019/2020, and can now look forward eagerly to what awaits us over the summer and in the coming football season. Thanks for your loyal support throughout the campaign, stay safe, and we’ll see you soon.
Bundesliga, 32nd round:
WAC - SK Rapid 3:1 (2:0)
Lavanttal-Arena, Ref Harkam
Goals: 1:0 Schmerböck (23.), 2:0 Wernitznig (33.), 3:0 Weissman (72.), 3:1 Kitagawa (74.);
WAC: Kofler – Novak (84./Peric), Baumgartner, Rnic, Gollner (58./Schmitz) – Jojic (79./Gölles), Sprangler (58./M. Leitgeb), Liendl, Wernitznig – Weissman, Schmerböck (58./Dieng)
SK Rapid: Gartler – Velimirovic (46./Hajdari), D. Ljubicic, Greiml – Schick, Petrovic, Schwab, Ullmann (80./Auer) – Knasmüllner (46./Arase) – Fountas (70./Ibrahimoglu), Kara (70./Kitagwa)
Yellow Cards: Velimirovic, Schwab, Hajdari