Merkur Arena, 21st November 2021

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LASK played out a six-goal thriller away to Sturm Graz, but will ultimately be disappointed to be coming away with just a point after a blistering opening saw Lukas Grgic, Mamoudou Karamoko and Sascha Horvath fire the team into a three goal lead in the first half, before the hosts hit back to share the spoils on Sunday.

The first of the final six games of 2021 saw LASK faced with an away trip to Graz. After returning to winning ways and moving off the bottom of the table with a 3-0 win in the last match before the international break, the aim on Sunday was to hit the ground running with three more points on the return to Bundesliga action. SK Sturm had gone five matches without a win coming into the game, albeit with some impressive Europa League performances included in that difficult run, and a tough challenge was expected for the Linzers against the league’s second best attack (28 goals in 13 games).

Andi Wieland’s LASK side were missing key midfielder Peter Michorl and the suspended Felix Luckeneder, but nonetheless the team came flying out of the blocks in Graz. Inside two minutes, lone striker Karamoko had crossed towards Thomas Goiginger who fired just over the bar, and within ten minutes, another of his crosses was narrowly missed by Keito Nakamura at the back post.

The busy opening phase continued, and once Grgic and Jan Boller had seen their efforts blocked following a corner kick, the home team came roaring back into the match. Alex Schlager in the LASK goal was finally forced into action after 19 minutes when Yeboah brought down a long pass and poked a shot towards goal, before defender Affengruber headed wide of the target for Sturm four minutes later. Undeterred, LASK pushed on and were rewarded soon after; Grgic was on the end of a Hyun-Seok Hong corner ball once more, but this time he was able to lash the loose ball into the roof of the net for 1-0 with 26 minutes on the clock.

The next big moment of the match saw the away team double their lead shortly after the half-hour mark, as the industrious Goiginger squared from the right flank towards Karamoko, whose first-time shot benefited from a fortunate deflection to find the back of the net. If the hosts weren’t yet stunned, LASK soon took care of that when a training ground set-piece from Goiginger found Horvath who had run clear into the box. When the ball came his way, he expertly met it on the volley and looped his shot up and over Siebenhandl to score in stunning fashion and make it 3-0 with 36 minutes played. As the first half came to a close, Yeboah was able to tap in at close range from a low cross to reduce the deficit, and leave the game poised for an interesting second half, with the home side trailing 3-1.

The first phase after the break was more standoffish from both teams in comparison to the action-packed first 45. Several crosses led to nothing as the respective defences made a number of good blocks, but it wasn’t until ten minutes after the restart when Nakamura passed across the box towards Horvath that LASK managed a dangerous shot on goal. Once a little over an hour had been played though, Sturm suddenly found themselves right back in the game. An out-swinging free kick from Sarkaria caught everyone out in the penalty area, and directly bounced back off the far post and into the net to put the hosts back in touch.

LASK made a triple substitution in an attempt to turn the tide back in their favour, but once Rene Renner had seen his marching orders for a second caution following a high foot, Sturm saw the resulting set-piece headed across goal for Yeboah to knock in an equaliser. That left the game at 3-3, with ten minutes remaining and Sturm holding the numerical advantage. Schlager had to acrobatically claw away a Jantscher header with five minutes to play, but the last few minutes didn’t provide the drama of a game-deciding winner, and both teams ultimately had to pause after 94 breathless minutes of football, and settle for a point apiece.

By Tom Middler from The Other Bundesliga (@OtherBundesliga)

The line-ups:

SK Sturm Graz: Siebenhandl; Wüthrich, Affengruber, Geyrhofer (Kuen 58’); Dante (Jantscher 64’), Prass, Gorenc-Stankovic, Gazibegovic; Niangbo; Sarkaria, Yeboah

Subs: Wels, Schützenauer,Jäger,Schendl, Kuen, Ljubic, Jantscher

Yellow cards: Gazibegovic 21’, Affengruber 56’, Yeboah 90’

Goals: Yeboah 44’ 80’, Sarkaria 64’

LASK: Schlager; Renner, Wiesinger (Letard 65’), Boller, Renner; Grgic, Hong; Nakamura (Monschein 65’), Horvath (Flecker 81’), Goiginger (Schmidt 76’); Karamoko (Balic 65’)

Subs: Gebauer, Letard, Balic, Gruber, Monschein, Schmidt, Flecker

Yellow cards: Horvath 15’, Grgic 22’, Renner 28’, Boller 63’

Red cards: Renner 79’

Goals: Grgic 26’, Karamoko 32’, Horvath 36’