02.06.2019 19:29
Team, Bundesliga, Sturm Graz, Match report

Victory in Graz brings defeat: Rapid fail in European qualification bid

The stakes were clear ahead of SK Rapid's final match of the season away to Sturm: The Hütteldorfers would need to win by two clear goals to bag the final Europa League spot. Following the 1:2 reverse in Vienna in the first leg, Sturm held a distinct advantage, but the task in front of Rapid was by no means insurmountable.

Mario Sonnleitner was unavailable, having picked up an injury following Thursday's game - unfortunately, it looks like Mario could be a long-term absentee. Max Hofmann came into defence in a team that otherwise was forward looking and designed to attack: Bolingoli and Ivan occupied places high up on the flanks, with Thomas Murg tucking in behind striker Aliou Badji. With Rapid desperate for a result, they took the game to Graz and put the hosts' defence under pressure from the off. After a quarter of an hour a Murg corner was flicked on by Dibon to Badji, who failed to get his close-range effort on target. Boli Bolingoli had the next chance, latching onto a ball from Murg, but his venomous strike was tipped over the bar by Sturm keeper Siebenhandl (30.). The Graz goalie was soon back in the action, saving from Ivan after the Romanian shot at the near post from a tight angle (33.).

Rapid continued to probe down the flanks and whip balls into the centre, but the majority failed to find their target, or when good balls did come in they often found no takers. The Green & Whites were failing to take advantage of the clearly nervous hosts, who - up until a shot from Kiteschivli (42.) - had failed to get any shots on target. It looked like a goal was coming and eventually it did: A cross from Stefan Schwab was missed by Badji but found Sturm's Spendlhofer, who turned the ball with his shoulder into his own net - 0:1 (43.)! Salvation was just a goal away!

 

Didi Kühbauer's side re-asserted their dominance in the second half: A lay-off from Murg set up Schwab, whose goal-bound shot was controversially deflected wide of the target via the arm of Eze; referee Schörgenhofer pointed towards the corner rather than to the penalty spot (57.). Richie Strebinger pulled off an important save at the other end of the field, denying the lively Kiteshvili to keep Rapid within one goal of victory (64.). Christoph Knasmüllner, Philipp Schobesberger and Andrija Pavlovic were thrown on in a triple substitution as Kühbauer desperately sought the crucial second. Siebenhandl saved from Schwab as the minutes ticked down and Rapid’s need grew (72.). With fifteen minutes left on the clock, two superb stops from Strebinger, firstly saving from Huspek then diving to cut out a low cross and prevent a certain goal, kept Rapid in the match (75.). 

In the closing stages the Green & Whites threw everything forwards and took shots, crossed the ball and probed and harried. But the whistle went and they had come up short: The victory on the night was not enough overall, and with the aggregate score tied a 2:2, the Styrians went through on the away goals rule. It was a harsh blow for the team, the fans and for Kühbauer's plans, but the club will regroup over the summer and come back all the stronger after the footballing hiatus.

(gw)

 

 

tipico Bundesliga, Play Off:
SK Sturm - SK Rapid 0:1 (0:1)
Merkur Arena, 9.315 Attendance, Ref Schörgenhofer

Goal: 0:1 Spendlhofer (43., Own Goal);

SK Sturm Graz: Siebenhandl – Koch, Lackner, Spendlhofer, Mensah – Dominguez – Hierländer, Ljubic, Kiteishvili (87./Schrammel), Jantscher (73./Huspek) – Pink (54./Eze);

SK Rapid: Strebinger – Müldür (66./Schobesberger), Dibon, Hofmann, Auer – Grahovac, Schwab – Ivan (59./Knasmüllner), Murg, Bolingoli – Badji (73./Pavlovic);

Yellow Cards: Ljubic; Bolingoli;

(gw)