Victory in Zagreb! One Goal is Enough against Lok
Our team ran out on Wednesday evening in tip-top shape against NK Lokomotiva in Zagreb: Led by captain Dejan Ljubicic, Rapid restricted the hosts early on, seizing the initiative from the outset. After a first foray forwards, Thomas Murg attempted to finish, but saw his ball-in fall somewhere between a cross and a shot, evading everyone in the middle (10’). The Green and Whites kept going, with Taxi Fountas getting out-muscled just before he let off a shot (27’). For their part, the home side did venture forward, with Cuze losing out in a one-on-one against Richi Strebinger's strong low save (29’). A precious Rapid goal felt like it was there for the taking, and just after the half hour mark we seized the chance. First Fountas had a shot from the right, then Kelvin Arase’s follow-up was parried, but Ercan Kara made it third time lucky by lashing home the loose ball for 1-0 (32’)! Moments later we could have doubled the lead, as Murg's high ball was too hot for the keeper, but Fountas' reaction shot flew agonisingly over from close range (38’). Nevertheless we held up strongly until the interval, and didn’t allow the hosts much space to create anything of note.
The half-time lead was deserved, and we continued to starve Lok of chances in the second period. A deflected shot wide of the far post provided a hint of danger (54’), but other than that it was Rapid who began to dominate even more. Murg attempted to curl one in but found the keeper’s gloves rather than the net (57’), before the Croats did have one more small moment of danger, but Strebinger was in position to take care of Dira's long shot (59’). Then from a corner the ball fell to Max Ullmann, whose daisy-cutter from outside the box caused panic in the Lok penalty area once more, but when the ball failed to sneak in, Fountas found space for a follow-up effort which was cleared off the line (62’), meaning the narrow one-goal cushion remained.
The bottom line is that we were never truly troubled, because all of the remaining chances fell to our side. A header from Kara was plucked away from the corner (81’), before the goal scorer latched onto a solid Ljubicic pass and slid a shot merely inches wide of the upright (82’). The only reason for disappointment was that we hadn’t sealed the deal earlier on, but we managed to see the game out in a calm and confident manner. At the final whistle, a jubilant Rapid squad celebrated, and the reasons for that were twofold: with this victory against Lok, we not only booked a place in the next round of Champions League qualifying, we also guaranteed ourselves Europa League group stage football, irrespective of the games to come. That means we can all look forward to a season of European football! LET’S GO RAPID!
UCL-Quali, 2. Runde:
Lok Zagreb - SK Rapid 0:1 (0:1)
Zagreb, Stadion Kranjceviceva, SR Munuera (ESP)
Tor: 0:1 Kara (32.);
Lok Zagreb: Hendija – Karacic, Kolinger, Osmankovic, Markovic (61./Budimir) – Petrak (72./Kallaku), Halilovic – Cuze, Djira, Celikovic – Tuci (46./Sammir);
SK Rapid: Strebinger – Stojkovic, Hofmann, Greiml – Arase (76./Schick), Murg (64./Grahovac), Petrovic, D. Ljubicic, Ullmann – Kara, Fountas (86./Kitagawa);
Gelbe Karten: Tuci, Petrak, Sammir, Kolinger bzw. Ljubicic, Hofmann, Greiml;