No way through against a stubborn Altach side
For the long away trip to Vorarlberg on Match Day 17, Head Coach Didi Kühbauer elected to begin with the same XI that had battled valiantly to a 1-0 win against WAC in midweek. With our hosts Altach beaten in their own weekday fixture, they had slipped to the bottom of the table, but Kühbauer and the team knew that an easy encounter was far from guaranteed, despite what the Bundesliga table might suggest.
In sub-zero temperatures Rapid took to the field in their founding colours of Blue and Red, and the game began in an old-fashioned style to boot, featuring little creative play and some cynical fouls resulting in early bookings. Before any chances had been carved out, Altach were fortunate to avoid conceding a penalty; a bouncing ball in the area hit Bumberger's hand with nobody around him, but the referee was unmoved and play continued (7’). Striker Ercan Kara was making life difficult for the home team with some powerful moves on the right flank, and one such action resulted in a cross which reached Dejan Petrovic for our first real shot of the match, but he couldn’t find the net (15’).
Altach received another early let off when a bullet header from Mateo Barac flew wide of Kobras's post, yet their bookings cost them dearly moments later, when Thorsten Schick was repeatedly kicked after the whistle; an act which saw Schreiner receive a second yellow and therefore his marching orders after just 23 minutes. With a man advantage, Rapid's task was theoretically made easier, but by the same token, Altach’s ambitions became entirely defensive from that moment onwards.
With white shirts flooding the area, Marcel Ritzmaier and Max Ullmann attempted shots from further out, but both missed the target just before the half-hour mark. As the opening period wore on, Christoph Knasmüllner danced in behind the defence, only to see his chip flash across the face of the goal and out of play (33’), meaning that there was to be no breakthrough before the interval.
As expected, Rapid were the team to continue driving the tempo and controlling the possession in the second half, and five minutes in, Leo Greiml was the next player to see a powerful header fly just off target. Yusuf Demir was brought on to add a spark of movement on the ball to a crowded final third, and he did exactly what was expected of him when he somehow made space in the box for a shot just before the hour mark, but again Kobras was in the way (58’). That move had come about thanks to a slick set of Rapid passes, but Greiml opted to eschew that approach soon after as he bypassed the defence with another long range strike; sadly the goalkeeper wasn’t troubled (59’).
Marcel Ritzmaier then departed as Taxi Fountas made his return to action (65’), and with his first involvement he threaded a superb pass to Schick on the right of the area; the following cut-back fell to Srdjan Grahovac who beat the keeper with his shot, but Haudum was on the line to make a desparate clearance (66’). After narrowly failing to score in the first half, Petrovic was so close to getting an assist in the second; his pass out of defence ripped through the Altach middle and instantly played in Schick for a one on one with Kobras, but ultimately the keeper came out on top (70’).
With twelve shots on goal but only two on target, Rapid went into their legendary final fifteen minutes with a clear aim of grabbing a vital goal. The fast passing combinations gave way to longer balls, but with Altach defenders packing the area, finding a knock-down was no easy feat. Mateo Barac went ever so close to notching a first goal of the season when he headed another high cross goalwards, yet Kobras came up with his best stop of the match to parry, and the hosts had the rub of the green when Greiml was the one to block Demir’s follow up shot with the goal at his mercy (78’).
That moment was the latest sign that things were not going to go Rapid’s way on this occasion, but nobody was giving up yet. Grahovac had to go off injured, and Deni Alar came on to boost a heavily loaded attack (80’), but despite the offensive manpower only another Greiml header and a Schick set-piece tested the home defence. We had another penalty shout turned down when Fountas went down in the box (89’), but in the end Altach hung on to claim a point, leaving Rapid to reflect on a disappointing 0-0 draw. At least we’re now afforded a lengthy break to prepare for a huge game next weekend away in Salzburg.