1:1: The boys bring back a point from Graz
The only change between this game and the one in Gent midweek was the introduction of our brand new striped away shirts - on the personnel front, Head Coach Didi Kühbauer stuck with the same starting XI that had been performing so strongly of late. In the presence of the maximum allowance of 3,000 home fans in Graz, it was the hosts who started the brighter. A glancing header from Jantscher flew past the far post (10’), as well as a fierce shot from Kiteishvili from inside the box that just missed the target (12’). The first reply from Rapid was a cross from Thomas Murg that sat up nicely, but had nobody on the end of it (15’).
Our team kept plugging away in the opening phase, but had little success against a stubborn Sturm defence. The best chance fell to striker Ercan Kara who had a solo effort saved by goalie Siebenhandl (36’). At the other end Richi Strebinger was able to hold on to a Kiteishvili header, after a cross from ex-Rapid man Kuen (44’). In general, both teams cancelled each other out for long periods, but that was all about to change for the second half!
The game restarted without any subs, and once again the hosts were the quicker to get going. Balaj's high pass found the stride of Jantscher, and he set up Kuen near the 6-yard box, but although he made contact, the ball went across the face of goal (50’). There wasn't much breathing room for Rapid at this stage, and with the next attack Sturm hit the front. From a corner kick, Gorenc-Stankovic headed in at close quarters for 1-0 (54’). It was a setback that we bounced back from though! First off, a dangerous Murg cross was nearly put into the Sturm net by a defender, before Siebenhandl managed to steer it over the bar (55’). Then Rapid began to apply more pressure in the hunt for the equaliser, and it paid off. Kara reacted quickly to latch onto a deflected ball outside the area, before going around Siebenhandl and back-heeling the ball to the substitute Yusuf Demir. He kept his cool admirably, and slotted past the two remaining Sturm defenders for 1-1 (69’)!
From there on in, it was a proper showdown between two sides going for the win in the closing stages, with the momentum swinging back and forth. After a string of passes the ball fell to Jantscher in the area, whose angled shot trickled across the goal to safety (74’), and seconds later Taxi Fountas tested Siebenhandl with a dangerous long-shot (75’). After a corner from Srdjan Grahovac, Leo Greiml's header bounced agonisingly wide (84’), and Fountas went for a last-gasp winner but was denied by Siebenhandl again (92’). Back up the other end, Jantscher had one more go, but it was over, just like the match. At the end of a game filled with tension and drama, we at least hit the road back to Hütteldorf with a point in hand.
Photos: GEPA Pictures.
Bundesliga, 2nd round:
SK Sturm Graz - SK Rapid 1:1 (0:0)
Merkur Arena, 2.812 Attendance, Ref Altmann
Goals:1:0 (52.) Gorenc-Stankovic, 1:1 (68.) Demir;
SK Sturm: Siebenhandl – Ingolitsch, Geyrhofer, Gorenc-Stankovic, Dante – Hierländer, Ljubic, Kiteishvili (73. Jäger), Kuen (78. Friesenbichler) – Jantscher, Balaj
SK Rapid: Strebinger – Stojkovic, Greiml, Hofmann, Ullmann – Petrovic, D. Ljubicic – Murg (81. Grahovac), Fountas, Arase (54. Demir) – Kara (71. Kitagawa)
Yellow Cards: Hierländer, Kiteishvili; Arase, Kitagawa