Back to winning ways in the Bundesliga!
After being forced to settle for just a point in last weekend's derby, this weekend we needed to make up for it with a win away in Hartberg. Claiming the points against the side from East Styria has proven tough in the past, with a number of high scoring draws and unexpected results, but we would need all three on Sunday if Rapid were to get back into the race at the top of the table. Seven players who didn’t start against Arsenal were drafted back into the line up, but it wasn't quite a full-strength XI as Taxi Fountas was still unwell and Max Hofmann was suspended, with his captain's armband going to Srdjan Grahovac.
Just how badly did we want those points? Well that was evidenced in the first move of the match, Kelvin Arase led the attack and fed the ball to Ercan Kara. His shot from inside the area was parried by keeper Swete, but Arase was still there to tuck away the rebound for 1-0 inside two minutes! There was a dangerous free kick to watch out for from Hartberg’s side, but Horvath's ball threatened only briefly before evading everyone (10’). After that we made sure there were no more chances for the home side in the first half, and with a disciplined and assured display we denied the hosts space. We did suffer a shock after half an hour when Kara was down following a collision, but luckily he continued after treatment.
And how about this for a return to action! Max Ullmann won the ball back in midfield, sent a through ball on target to Kara, his initial shot was parried but he fought hard to win the loose ball and head home for 2-0 (35’). With the momentum now firmly on Rapid's side, a Christoph Knasmüllner attempt was blocked in the area (39’), before a numerical advantage came our way with a second yellow for Nimaga after an aerial clash with Filip Stojkovic (44’).
For the second half Mario Sonnleitner replaced Leo Greiml who was on a caution, and the same dominant Rapid continued, with Hartberg finding no way through. With our two goal cushion to protect, there were no real chances of note, and many attacks were just missing that final ball. But then suddenly a more than surprising goal got Hartberg back in the game out of nowhere. A free kick from distance was knocked into dangerous territory, and it bounced off Rotter and in for 2-1 (66’).
Before Hartberg had a chance to grow into the game, we had all but decided it on the counter. Substitute Yusuf Demir cut inside nicely in the area, his shot was once more parried by Swete but yet again Arase was the one chasing up the loose ball to tap in and make it 3-1 (76’)!
Paul Gartler in the Rapid goal had one more duty to perform, saving well from a Tijani long shot (77’), but that was the only chance he had to deal with. Rapid remained on the offensive, with Arase going so close to grabbing his hat-trick, instead watching a finish roll just past the far post (79’). Demir brought down a long ball nicely too, but couldn't get his shot on target, firing over (85’). It remained 3-1, a scoreline Rapid deserved not only because we limited Hartberg’s chances, but because we played the game smartly from the off. That'll help with a bit of feel-good factor ahead of the big Europa League clash against Molde on Thursday. RAPID!!
Photos: GEPA Pictures.
Bundesliga, 10th round:
TSV Hartberg - SK Rapid 1:3 (0:2)
Profertil-Arena, Ref Gishamer
Goals: 0:1 (2.) Arase, 0:2 (35.) Kara, 1:2 (66.) Rotter, 1:3 (76.) Arase;
Hartberg: Swete – Gölles, Luckeneder, Rotter, Klem (86./Gollner) – Heil, Nimaga, Kainz, Horvath (46./Rep) – Ertlthaler (65./Tijani), Tadic (65./Chabbi)
SK Rapid: Gartler – Stojkovic, Greiml (46./Sonnleitner), Barac, Ullmann – Grahovac, Ritzmaier – Schick (62. Demir), Knasmüllner (62./Schuster), Arase – Kara (81./Kitagawa)
Yellow Cards: Swete, Heil, Rep bzw. Greiml;
Yellow-Red card: Nimaga (44./Foul)