Austrian Bundesliga Round 25 – Red Bull Salzburg 2 – 0 LASK
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Red Bull Arena Salzburg, 18th April 2021
Late goals from Mergim Berisha and Noah Okafor denied LASK a creditable draw away to Red Bull Salzburg. A dress rehearsal for the upcoming ÖFB Cup Final on May 1st, the evenly matched contest saw the Linzers frustrate Salzburg with limited chances throughout the game, but with time running out on the clock Karim Adeyemi played the ball across the area into the path of Berisha who knocked in from close range, followed by Okafor adding a second. Dominik Thalhammer’s men produced a bevy of chances too, with Husein Balic and Johannes Eggestein working Cican Stankovic but it was another case of so close, yet so far.
Prior to kick-off the Black-Whites were only one point behind second place Rapid Vienna, meanwhile Salzburg were seven points clear of Rapid and eight points clear of LASK at the top. The hosts were in imperious form with 11 wins out of 12 games in 2021 – an all-time Austrian record, however LASK had won five out of their last six away league games. In the previous clash between the two in Pasching, LASK were defeated 1-0 but tested the champions all the way. In terms of the line-up, Dominik Thalhammer brought Andres Andrade into the starting line-up to replace Petar Filipovic as the only change from the victory over Wolfsberger AC.
The two clubs began where they left off back in March with an even and hard-fought opening 10 minutes to the game with not a single sight of goal for either. It took until the 13th minute for Johannes Eggestein to fire at goal but his deflected effort from distance went behind for a corner, this was quickly followed by Husein Balic blasting over from 25 yards with LASK in the ascendency. Salzburg came back with a half chance from Bundesliga top scorer Patson Daka that was simple for Alex Schlager to pick-up.
Just prior to the half-hour mark Salzburg turned up the gears as striker Mergim Berisha lashed the ball onto the left-hand post after a superb counter-attack from Enock Mwepu, which eventually found the German in the middle but he couldn’t direct his effort on target. In a back-and-forth contest, Balic excellently dribbled past Rasmus Kristensen and Maximilian Wöber before forcing a solid stop from Cican Stankovic as LASK more than held their own.
The next big chance fell to Berisha, who found himself in space on the edge of the six-yard box but headed directly at Schlager with the whole goal gaping. Shortly after, the 22-year-old was the focal point of the attack again but shot over the bar after Daka’s good work on the left.
In the final effort before the break, Daka found himself unmarked from the corner and headed, with force, a matter of inches wide as the half-time whistle blew.
The opening minutes of the second half mirrored that of the first, as the two battled mainly in the midfield for supremacy with chances at a minimum. Reinhold Ranftl attempted to change this but saw his long-range strike sail over the bar.
As LASK pressed forward, Thomas Goiginger found an alleyway into the Salzburg defence but was tackled, the eventual shot was blocked by Andre Ramalho with a huge suspicion of handball by the Brazilian defender amidst howls of protest from the Linzers.
Thalhammer’s side continued to frustrate the champions, who brought on youngster Karim Adeyemi off the subs bench to try and break the deadlock. Then, with only three minutes remaining in the game, Mwepu broke forward, played the ball to Adeyemi who drilled across the six-yard box into the path of Berisha who tapped home. And just before the final whistle, Salzburg doubled their lead as Okafor latched on to another Adeyemi ball at close range and made sure of yet another win for Jesse Marsch’s men.
A disappointing end for LASK, but it’s an important two weeks coming up as they take on Rapid Vienna on Wednesday, a Sturm Graz double-header on April 25th and 28th, and then the ÖFB Cup Final in Klagenfurt against today’s opponents.
By Simon Clark from The Other Bundesliga (@OtherBundesliga)
Red Bull Salzburg: Stankovic; Kristensen, Ramalho, Wöber (Bernado 64‘), Ulmer, Bernede, Junuzovic (Seiwald 87‘), Mwepu, Aaronson (Adeyemi 74‘), Daka (Okafor 87‘), Berisha
Subs: Mantl, Solet, Farkas
Goals: Berisha 87, Okafor 90+3
LASK: Schlager; Andrade, Trauner, Wiesinger, Renner, Michorl, Holland, Ranftl, Balic, Goiginger, Eggestein (Reiter 69‘)
Subs: Gebauer, Filipovic, Potzmann, Maden, Grgic, Sabitzer