Raiffeisen Arena, 31st January 2021

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LASK suffered their second home defeat of 2021 as they were beaten 2-1 by Rapid Vienna at the Raiffeisen Arena on Bundesliga Matchday 15. The capital club have become something of a bogey team for the Black & Whites in recent times, and their fifth successive league defeat to their title-chasing rivals leaves them seven points behind league leaders Red Bull Salzburg with seven rounds of the regular season left to play.

LASK, who had beaten fellow Europa League participants Wolfsberger AC last time out, went into this match in fourth place – three points adrift of second-placed Rapid but with a superior goal difference that meant they would leapfrog their opponents with a victory. Head coach Dominik Thalhammer set up his side in their usual 3-4-3 formation and largely kept the faith with the starting line-up that had triumphed in Carinthia in midweek. Husein Balić was the only new face in the XI, with Thomas Goiginger making way for the Bosnian forward.

The game began in fiery fashion despite the icy temperatures in Pasching, with players on both sides throwing themselves into the challenges in the opening minutes. The visitors thought they had taken the lead in the second minute when Thorsten Schick squared for Christoph Knasmüllner to slot into an empty net, but the linesman was quick to raise his flag and the goal was correctly ruled out. Ercan Kara then had two headers from the edge of the six-yard box well saved by Alexander Schlager in the 11th and 18th minutes respectively, but Rapid were eventually rewarded for their early pressure when Srdjan Grahovac’s shot found its way into the back of the net via a highly fortuitous deflection on the 19-minute mark.

LASK quickly levelled at 1-1 through James Holland’s well-timed strike from inside the box, which also benefited from a lucky deflection, only for Knasmüllner to re-establish Rapid’s advantage barely two minutes later when he slotted home Leo Greiml’s header across the face of goal. But what had been a high-octane opening 25 minutes subsequently gave way to a more disjointed phase. There were numerous possession giveaways by both sides – though particularly by Rapid, who registered only a 42% pass completion rate in the opening half – and clear-cut chances were few and far between until Balić’s curling effort from inside the box was beaten away by Strebinger in the 39th minute.

It was Rapid who had the better half-chances directly after the restart, a ferocious Kara strike rattling against the outside of the post in the 50th minute before Schlager palmed Mateo Barać’s curling free-kick over the bar as the match approached the hour mark. LASK, meanwhile, failed to exploit several opportunities to counter into the space frequently vacated by the Rapid midfield, and they did not really get a glimpse of the opposition goal until Eggestein had an effort from inside the box blocked with a quarter of an hour remaining.

But it was a moment that seemed to spark the hosts into life, with Wiesinger then forcing Strebinger into an important save with a low drive in the 77th minute and Reinhold Ranftl going close with a shot on the turn four minutes later. But the best chance for LASK to level undoubtedly fell to Dominik Reiter in the 86th minute. The substitute timed his run to perfection to latch on to Trauner’s lofted pass, but Strebinger was quickly off his line to narrow the angle and Reiter could not direct his effort on target. Rapid, who had an appeal for a penalty waved away in the dying embers after Wiesinger had appeared to clip Ritzmaier, ultimately held on to secure the victory and move six points clear of their hosts.

Next up for LASK is an Austrian cup quarter-final tie with Austria Klagenfurt next Sunday, before they resume their Bundesliga campaign away to St. Pölten three days later.

The line-ups:

LASK: Schlager; Andrade, Trauner, Wiesinger; Renner, Michorl (Madsen 80‘), Holland, Ranftl; Balić (Goiginger 62‘), Gruber (Reiter 81‘), Eggestein.

Yellow cards: None

Goals: Holland 21’

Rapid Vienna: Strebinger; Stojkovic, Greiml, Barać, Ullmann; Petrovic, Grahovac; Schick, Knasmüllner (Ritzmaier 78’), Kitagawa (Arase 60’); Kara (Schuster 90+3’).

Yellow cards: Greiml 30’; Strebinger 87’

Goals: Grahovac 19’; Knasmüllner 23‘

Attendance: 0

by Lee Wingate from The Other Bundesliga