UEL: Late action sees Rapid winning 4-3!
Whilst all of our recent games have been played under strange circumstances, our return to UEFA Europa League action against Dundalk was surely the most difficult of them all, coming on the third day of national mourning following Monday's tragic events in our beloved city. Rapid President Martin Bruckner stated before the game: "Terror must not take our way of life from us. We can't let it win." And so with the knowledge that other things are more important than football, our team headed out to represent the city and everyone within it, and despite no fans being present in the Allianz Stadium itself, a minute's silence was observed before kick off.
Both sides were aiming for their first points of the campaign, and although our Head Coach Didi Kühbauer had to do without the services of striker Taxi Fountas once more, Ercan Kara began up front, backed up by Thorsten Schick, Christoph Knasmüllner and Kelvin Arase, and Paul Gartler again began in goal.
Unfortunately Gartler was heavily involved in the first real action of the game. Despite what appeared to be an offside ball down the left flank for Dundalk, a high cross was played in well, and Hoban headed goalwards to where our keeper slipped badly, and could only pat the ball into the net to put the Irish side ahead (7’). With no VAR to pull it back, our boys in Green and White simply had to get on with it, and they responded well. Kara had a cross blocked from a promising position on the right (12’) before a follow up from Filip Stojkovic was headed wide by Knasmüllner who had attacked the ball aggressively, and came close to levelling (13’). Dundalk were already beginning to pile men behind the ball when Max Ullmann hit a deflected shot on goal (15’), and a long night seemed to lie ahead after trailing from that terrible start.
Our next shot from outside the box was a moment of magic though! Captain Dejan Ljubicic received the ball almost 30 yards from goal, and simply turned and fired in beneath the crossbar from range (22’) for 1-1! It was a delightful goal to get us back into the game, and seconds later Kara hit the target from inside the area, only for keeper McCarey to make the save this time (23’). A spate of yellow cards then broke up the flow of the game, and before the break only a Duffy counter attack for Dundalk (29’) and a Kara header (38’) kept things ticking over, until a corner kick was flicked on towards Knasmüllner, who forced a great stop from McCarey to keep things level at the interval.
If the first half had seen only flashes of drama, the second was packed with it! Firstly Dejan Petrovic fired wide as Rapid looked to take the initiative (47’), and then Mateo Barac was forced off after a clash from a corner (50’). Mario Sonnleitner came on in his place, and he’d play his part in the drama too. Knasmüllner was the next of our players to go close, capitalising on a defensive error before shooting too centrally (57’) and having another shot headed away (60’). Schick had another dangerous shot deflected away by the Dundalk defence (66’), before it was time that the coach looked to his bench. Srdjan Grahovac and the returning Yusuf Demir came on (71’) as our boys exerted the pressure they needed to win it.
Sonnleitner forced a diving save from his header (72’), and Kara sent Demir through on goal, but his poked shot was smothered (73’). As the Rapid Viertelstunde came near, the action markedly went up a notch; Demir fed Kara who only found the side-netting with a good chance (74’), but finally Kelvin Arase showed his worth with a precious breakthrough goal (79’)! A long, searching cross looked to be of no use, until Schick refused to give up on it and fired acrobatically across the face of the goal, forcing the keeper to tip it towards Arase who was able to dive and head into the empty net; 2-1!
If anyone thought we’d see out the win calmly, they were sorely mistaken. Seconds later Dundalk had a lifeline when they won a penalty, converted by MacMillan for a 2-2 score which suited the guests nicely (81’). The action still didn’t stop there though, as the Irish team almost grabbed another goal with a header bouncing wide (86’), only to see us go down the other end and grab a third for ourselves! Max Hofmann was the unlikely hero, beating McCarey to a lofted cross and nodding into the freshly vacated goal (87’)! Incredibly, the twists and turns hadn’t ended yet; as Dundalk went for an equaliser, Yusuf Demir showed signs of his brilliance once again by dancing into the area and picking out the bottom corner with barely a glance (90’). 4-2 and surely game over now? There was time yet for another MacMillan penalty, but although he made it 4-3 (90+5’) it was the last kick of a dramatic game. With all said and done, we can be delighted and more than a little relieved with the three points, and we can at least hope that the win kick starts our group stage campaign.
UEFA Europa League, 3rd matchday:
SK Rapid - Dundalk FC 4:3 (1:1)
Allianz Stadion, Ref Farrugia Cann (MLT)
Goals: 0:1 Hoban (7.), 1:1 Ljubicic (22.), 2:1 Arase (79.), 2:2 McMillan (81./Penalty), 3:2 Hofmann (87.), 4:2 Demir (90.), 4:3 McMillan (90.+6/Penalty);
SK Rapid: Gartler – Stojkovic, Hofmann, Barac (54./Sonnleitner), Ullmann – Ljubicic, Petrovic (72./Grahovac) – Schick, Knasmüllner (72./Demir), Arase – Kara
Dundalk FC: McCarey – Hoare, Cleary, Boyle, Leahy (65./Dummigan) – Shields – Gannon (65./Mountney), Flores (76./Murray), Sloggett, Duffy (72./Oduwa) – Hoban (76. McMillan)
Yellow Cards: Hofmann, Stojkovic, Sonnleitner Schick; Hoare, Cleary, Dummigan