Salzburg are a step ahead as Rapid lose on the road
Match Day 18 of the Bundesliga season presented us with a tricky challenge, and gave neutral fans the chance to enjoy a direct clash of the league’s top two sides as Rapid faced Salzburg on the road. After goalkeeper Tobias Knoflach recently conceded 7 against Salzburg and Paul Gartler 6, this time it was Richard Strebinger’s turn to face the perennial champions, and as he stated before the match, we’d need “a complete performance” if we were to pick up some rare points from this fixture. Head Coach Didi Kühbauer opted for a three-man defence with Dejan Ljubicic in the middle, and further up-field Christoph Knasmüllner occupied the “number 10” role behind Ercan Kara and Taxi Fountas.
Perhaps boosted by the memories of previous matches, Salzburg began like a side top of the table and brimming with confidence; a header from Kristensen was deflected to safety via a combination of Maxi Ullmann and Strebinger (2’), with our keeper then required to put himself in harm’s way to save Bernede’s effort and Daka’s follow-up from the resulting corner. Winter signing Aaronson was continually dangerous for the hosts, and he set up Berisha for a powerful strike from the right-hand side which called Strebinger into action once more (7’); our keeper was certainly well warmed-up after the opening minutes. With our play mostly confined to the defenders, Filip Stojkovic made a fantastic intervention to stop Salzburg’s advance (17’), but our first attack almost gave us the lead as Kara latched onto a set-piece from Marcel Ritzmaier and headed just wide (19’).
We came even closer to the lead a few minutes later when Ritzmaier danced through the defence and laid off to Fountas, who beat the Salzburg keeper but was denied by a very tight offside call (28’). It was a moment of bad luck for Rapid, and as so often happens in football, it was compounded just over a minute later when Berisha set up Daka to fire home at close range and put Salzburg in front. We kept our heads up though, and the next chance was ours, as Knasmüllner struck his shot narrowly wide from outside the box (33’). Junuzovic attempted a flick over the keeper for the hosts (41’) and Daka’s rising drive needed another strong save from Strebinger (44’) as Salzburg saw out the first half comfortably, but with the score 1-0 at the break, it was still very much game on!
Aside from a Berisha shot off the post (46’), Salzburg appeared as though they might sit back on their lead as the second half began, however their danger on the break is well-known, and Mateo Barac was forced into a perfectly-timed tackle to deny Daka as he looked to run clear (52’). Mwepu succeeded in getting behind the Green and White defence, but Strebinger slid at his feet to continue a brilliant performance (54’), and then stopped Vallci’s shot (56’) as the home team switched quickly to defending on the front-foot. With Rapid unable to get out of defence, Salzburg’s second followed: No foul was given on Petrovic, allowing Berisha to run free down the right and square for Daka: 2-0 (64’).
With an already sizeable task turning into something resembling a mountain to climb, Rapid kept plugging away, yet the chances continued at the wrong end. Aaronson slid in close from close range but couldn’t make contact for a third goal (68’), although teammate Daka had more luck as the league leaders combined to leave him staring at an empty net, and a hat-trick: 3-0 (69’). Personnel changes in the form of Yusuf Demir, Leo Greiml, Kelvin Arase and Lion Schuster failed to turn the tide, and there was no more action of note until a flurry of goals in the dying minutes.
First, substitute Schuster headed in a consolation goal for Rapid; 3-1 (90’), before Salzburg scored from a third identical move, with the only difference being that Daka had been replaced already by Adeyemi; 4-1 (90’+2). Somehow there was still time for Kara to lob Stankovic; 4-2 (90’+4), but in all honesty Salzburg’s win was never truly under threat. Despite Strebinger’s super performance, the hosts delivered a match worthy of a team at the top, and left us with a reality check of what we need to aim for as we remain at the business end of the Bundesliga standings. We’ll go again next Saturday in Hütteldorf when we take on SV Ried at 17:00.
RB Salzburg vs SK Rapid 4:2 (1:0)
Wals-Siezenheim; keine Zuschauer; SR Alexander Harkam
Salzburg: Stankovic – Kristensen (77. Farkas), Ramalho, Vallci, Ulmer (78. Solet) – Mwepu (73. Seiwald), Bernede, Junuzovic (73. Sucic), Aaronson – Berisha, Daka (73. Adeyemi)
Rapid: Strebinger – Stojkovic, D. Ljubicic (76. Greiml), Barac – Schick (76. Arase), Ritzmaier (75. Schuster), Petrovic, Ullmann – Fountas (46. Grahovac), Knasmüllner (70. Demir) – Kara
Tore: Daka (30.,64.,70.), Adeyemi (92.); Schuster (91.), Kara (94.)
Gelbe Karten: Daka (3.); Petrovic (14.)