4:3 vs WAC: All's Well That Ends Well!
After a valiant display against Arsenal in the Europa League just three days ago, it was back to Bundesliga business with a tough test away against last season's 3rd place side, Wolfsberger AC, who themselves had been in European action in midweek. Whilst we promised to take the positives from our battling performance against the Gunners, one of the negatives was crystal clear, striker Taxi Fountas was sidelined with a hand injury picked up in that game. In his place was Koya Kitagawa, keen to seize his chance in the starting XI by making an impression alongside Ercan Kara, with the two strikers positioned ahead of ex-Wolfsberg man Marcel Ritzmaier.
The early signs pointed in our favour once the game got started, Kara brought down a long ball and had a shot blocked by keeper Kofler, with Kitagawa nodding the rebound just past the upright (4’) and spurning his chance to make an immediate statement. Not long later it was Ritzmaier's turn to test his former teammate, but Kofler's parried save didn't quite fall for Kara (14’), Despite the goalless scoreboard, Rapid's performance was decidedly dominant, with very little on offer from the hosts which wasn’t shut down quickly and effectively by our defence.
With our next attack Filip Stojkovic fired wide (19’), but it wasn’t long until our persistence paid off in style. Another ball forward found Kitagawa in a central position, he got his head up and found Thorsten Schick on the edge of the area, and after a quick touch to control, he rifled the ball across goal and into the far corner to give us the lead (25’)! We kept control of the reins and refused to let up after that opener, and our Japanese striker kept going forward too, playing a lovely one-two with Stojkovic whilst darting into the box to slide in and score for 2-0 (29’)! With a comfortable half behind us and two goals already on the board, we went in at half time happy with our work so far!
We may not have made any changes at the break, but WAC came out like a different side altogether for the second half, and within a few minutes they had resuscitated their fading hopes. Baumgartner got on the end of a long Liendl free kick to head in the first (47’), before popping up again to nod a corner kick goalwards, Grahovac tried to keep it out on the line, but his efforts were in vain and suddenly it was 2-2 (52’). The game was far from done yet, and Max Hofmann headed an effort off target, before Joveljic was unlucky to see his lob over Richi Strebinger come back off the post (62’). The home side were soon celebrating though, another long ball came over the defence and this time Dieng brought it down perfectly, rounded Strebinger and slotted in to score for WAC and complete their incredible comeback (67’).
And yet, with all momentum flowing against us, our boys in their Blue and Red away shirts refused to accept their fate. Firstly Kara had a header cleared off the line (72’), and then seconds into the “Rapid Viertelstunde" he climbed highest to angle in a header from a Ritzmaier cross, levelling the tie up at 3-3 (76’)! Chances still kept coming at both ends, with Liendl firing over from inside the box (83’), Deni Alar heading just off-target for us (84’) and Joveljic going even closer to heading in what would have been the home side’s winner (90’), before Kara had his feet taken from underneath him in the penalty area! He stepped up to convert the resulting spot-kick himself and decide the game in our favour at 4-3 (93’)! What an incredible match, and what a spectacular way to prepare for our trip to Molde this week in the Europa League. The journey will certainly seem a lot more pleasant after that late winner. RAPID!
Photos: GEPA Pictures.
Bundesliga, 5th round:
WAC - SK Rapid 3:4 (0:2)
Lavanttal-Arena, 1.500 Attendance, Ref Ebner
Goals: 0:1 (25.) Schick, 0:2 (35.) Kitagawa, 1:2 (47.) Baumgartner, 2:2 (52.) Baumgartner, 3:2 (67.) Dieng, 3:3 (76.) Kara, 3:4 (93., Elfmeter) Kara;
WAC: Kofler – Novak, Baumgartner, Lochoshvili, Pavelic (63./Scherzer) – Taferner (89./Stratznig), Liendl, Leitgeb, Peretz (58./Wernitznig) – Dieng (89./Hodzic), Schmerböck (58. Joveljic)
SK Rapid: Strebinger – Stojkovic, Hofmann, Greiml (56. Barac) – Schick (73./Arase), Grahovac, Ritzmaier (78./Knasmüllner), D. Ljubicic, Ullmann – Kara, Kitagawa (78./Alar);
Yellow Cards: Liendl, Leitgeb, Baumgartner; Hofmann