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LASK returned to winning ways after a narrow, yet deserved victory over Championship Group rivals Wolfsberger AC. Peter Michorl teed up Reinhold Ranftl to fire LASK into a first half lead, yet WAC proved tougher in the second period, levelling the scores at 1-1 after an impressive Thorsten Röcher lob. In the end though, the roars of elation at the whistle belonged to LASK, as Phlipp Wiesinger’s late penalty proved to be the winning goal at the Raiffeisen Arena in Pasching.
LASK went into Sunday’s clash with WAC looking to bounce back from an opening day defeat in the Championship Group, with Wolfsberg themselves desperate to put last weekend’s 8-1 hammering behind them. The visitors lined up with a back four, and regular assist-threat Michi Liendl tucked in behind Dejan Joveljic and Röcher up-front. Dominik Thalhammer retained LASK’s usual 3-4-3 formation, but with a few tweaks that saw Husein Balic begin as the centre forward, assisted by Thomas Goiginger and Johannes Eggestein in the front three.
The game began in a manner befitting two teams who were coming in off the back of defeats, but it didn’t take long for LASK to settle into the traditional ‘home side’ role. A high-intensity philosophy meant that the hosts had plenty of options going forward on a 13th minute break; the ball was played to Goiginger on the left of the area, and although his crisp half-volley was parried by WAC keeper Manuel Kuttin, the rebound fell kindly to Balic who agonisingly scuffed his contact in front of goal. The resulting corner saw Michorl pick out Gernot Trauner at the back post, but the classic LASK combination couldn’t find the net, and the visitors survived the first period of real pressure.
With WAC reduced to counter opportunities early on, the LASK defence was coping well, yet a quick turnover after 20 minutes gave Röcher the chance to break into the box, only to see Alexander Schlager run out and smother the ball with an excellent stop. Soon after that, LASK’s energetic pressing game got its first reward. Just before the half hour mark, Goiginger won a free kick on the byline following a relentless pursuit of the WAC defence, and Michorl picked out a routine straight from the training ground. After signalling a cross towards a packed six-yard box, he actually played the set-piece back towards Reinhold Ranftl, who lashed in through the crowd to make it 1-0!
LASK’s continued pressing game stifled any Wolfsberg build-up play for the remainder of the first half, but the home team could only register a Goiginger long-shot straight at Kuttin as they looked to extend a deserved lead. There was a heart-in-mouth moment for the home team just before the break as Joveljic went down in the box after a battle with Schlager, but the referee rightly refused to award a penalty, meaning LASK’s lead was intact at the interval.
In the second half, WAC began to take a bit more of the initiative, but although they were on top in the first 15 minutes their pressure only led to a succession of crosses, most of which were easily dealt with by the LASK defence. In fact, it was the hosts who forced the first real opening of the half when a long ball was headed towards Eggestein in the centre with an hour played; he controlled the pass, beat a defender and even squeezed his shot past the keeper, but Gustav Henriksson was on hand to stop the ball before the goal line.
A number of substitutions began to break up the game, but nonetheless a moment of magic got Wolfsberg back on level terms. A tough tackle on Potzmann went unpunished in the midfield, and when the ball came to Röcher he wriggled away from a number of defenders and launched a chip over Schlager into the far corner, leaving the scoreboard at 1-1 with 20 minutes to play. The parity lasted just seven minutes however, as Nemanja Rnic clipped Balic on a run into the area, and despite missing from the spot last week, Wiesinger stepped up to bury the penalty in the bottom corner for 2-1.
In the remaining 15 minutes of the match LASK endured no more than a few nervous seconds at the back, and on the whole the home team were comfortable as they saw out a narrow, yet precious win over WAC. The three points strengthen LASK’s third position in the table and serve as the perfect tonic after consecutive defeats, the visitors stay in sixth.
By Tom Middler from The Other Bundesliga (@OtherBundesliga)
LASK: Schlager; Wiesinger, Trauner, Filipovic (Andrade 52‘); Ranftl (Potzmann 65’), Michorl (Madsen 65’), Holland, Renner; Goiginger (Reiter 81’), Eggestein (Sabitzer 81’), Balic
Yellow cards: Filipovic (10’), Schlager (58’)
Goals: Ranftl (28’), Wiesinger (78’, PK)
Subs: Gebauer, Ramsebner, Andrade, Sabitzer, Potzmann, Madsen, Reiter
Wolfsberger AC: Kuttin; Giorbelidze, Henriksson, Baumgartner (Rnic 65’), Novak; Peretz, Leitgeb, Wernitznig (Stratznig 73’); Liendl; Joveljic, Röcher (Vizinger 78’)
Yellow cards: Henriksson (26’)
Goals: Röcher (70’)
Subs: Kofler, Scherzer, Rnic, Stratznig, Schöfl, Taferner, Vizinger