UEL: 2-2 draw not enough to secure second spot
It all came down to the final group game: After the results of the previous five match days, both Molde and Rapid went into this game with the chance to progress. We knew that a 1-0 home win against the Norwegian champions would edge us ahead of the guests and send Rapid through on goal difference. As easy as 1-0 sounded, we were aware that 90 tough minutes lay ahead of us if we were to get the result we wanted. A few weeks back Molde had come out on top by a 1-0 scoreline at their home ground, this time around we wanted and needed to do better. Max Hofmann was back in our starting XI after being suspended for our win over Hartberg. Elsewhere we were almost at full strength, with Taxi Fountas and also Dejan Petrovic on the bench.
In slightly snowy conditions the game heated up from the off: Christoph Knasmüllner showed our early intentions with a well struck shot from range, but it was narrowly off target (2’). In response, visiting captain Eikrem made his way into the box in front of Paul Gartler, but thankfully wasn't able to score (4’). The game was open, and we didn't want to let up! Unfortunately the odds were against us as the game continued, with a passing combination again finding Molde's Eikrem who cut inside in the box and slotted past Gartler to give the visitors a valuable lead (14’). Now needing three goals, we almost struck back instantly as a promising looking header came in from Ercan Kara after a Srdjan Grahovac cross; alas it ended up over the bar (14’).
We needed to keep our wits about us constantly as the Norwegians remained active in attack, making life uncomfortable for us despite our need for goals. A few moments of relief came after the half-hour mark when a volley from Thorsten Schick went close (but would have been chalked off for offisde in any case) and another Kara header just missed the target, this time from a Max Ullmann cross (34’). A long shot from Marcel Ritzmaier was then parried by the Molde keeper for a corner kick as we remained on the hunt (37’). Before the break came the glimmer of hope that we needed: Schick squared the ball into the centre outside the area, Ritzmaier took it on and went for goal, curling his shot beautifully inside the post from 18 yards to level things up at 1-1 (43’)!
After the break we needed some new attacking impetus, and in Yusuf Demir and Taxi Fountas we were able to introduce two offensive players. However, we had barely stepped out of the changing rooms when our hopes suffered a huge setback. Once again Molde passed the ball between several players before finding Eikrem who hit the back of the net from inside the box for 1-2 (46’). It was a bitter blow, but now there was no option left but to take risks. Fountas registered a few attempts, but they were over the crossbar (49’, 53’). At the other end Brynhildsen's volley could have put the tie to bed, but his miss at least kept us hanging on in there (57’). Our opponents then began to sit back, remaining deep and compact, making sure not to leave us any room as the clock ticked down.
Substitute Koya Kitagawa had a chance to breathe some life into the final phase of the game, but his shot after a Schick pass was saved by keeper Linde with a reflex stop (83’). Shortly before the 90 minutes were up we did get the equaliser, fellow substitute Melih Ibrahimoglu hit one from range, the ball being aided on its way into the net by a deflection, but nevertheless making it 2-2 (90’). Moments afterwards, Fountas had a chance with a header, but it wasn’t to be, and the score line remained tied at two apiece. In the end, at least we avoided defeat, but that was scant consolation on the night. Thorsten Schick got straight to the point after the draw: "We can’t have too many complaints, we tried everything, but we just couldn’t recover after conceding the second goal." Keep your heads up Rapid!
Photos: GEPA Pictures.
UEFA Europa League, Matchday 6:
SK Rapid - Molde FK 2:2 (1:1)
Weststadion, Ref Guida (ITA)
Goals: 0:1 Wolff Eikrem (12.), 1:1 Ritzmaier (43.), 1:2 Wolff Eikrem (46.), 2:2 Ibrahimoglu (90.)
SK Rapid: Gartler – Stojkovic, Hofmann, Barac, Ullmann – Grahovac, Ritzmaier (61./Ibrahimoglu) – Schick, Knasmüllner (46./Fountas), Arase (46./Demir) – Kara (75./Kitagawa)
Molde: Linde – Pedersen, Gregersen, Sinyan, Risa – Hestad (45./Knudtzon), Aursnes, Ellingsen, Wolff Eikrem (58./Huassain), Brynhildsen (58./Omoijuanfo) – James (85./Wingo)
Yellow Cards: Barac, Stojkovic; Risa, Sinyan, Aursnes