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LASK produced a powerful home performance to brush aside Union Saint-Gilloise and reignite hopes of remaining in Europe into the new year with three goals, and three precious points.

Having succumbed to two late goals in the last game against Union Saint-Gilloise, it was high time for LASK to collect their first points in UEFA Europa League Group E as they faced the same opposition once again on Matchday 4. This time, with the home crowd firmly behind them at the Oberösterreich Arena, the hosts got off to a positive start, albeit without really being able to test USG keeper Anthony Moris, who easily scooped up an effort on target from Ibrahim Mustapha after ten minutes, and caught a header from Moses Usor with just under a quarter of an hour played. Ivan Ljubić then blasted a shot just over the top from outside the area as LASK stayed on the front foot, whilst their guests gave Tobias Lawal little to keep him warm on a cold winter evening.

Just past the midway point of the first half, Usor was able to take aim from the edge of the box, and from a central position his shot was blocked by a defender, but clearly by an outstretched hand. The referee didn’t hesitate to point to the spot, and even the VAR check lasted just seconds in a clear cut case. Up stepped Sascha Horvath, who slammed the spot kick into the top corner to open the scoring in the 25th minute. The visitors responded with two long-shots from Lazare Amani, the first of which flew across the face of goal, and the latter sailed harmlessly wide. Andres Andrade advanced forward for the first time in the match after the half-hour mark, and the USG defence had to react with a perfectly timed challenge, yet LASK continued to apply pressure, and a defensive error led to panic stations in the Belgian back-line: Robert Žulj had a close-range strike parried as defenders scrambled around him, Usor even had the ball in the net on the rebound, however he was deemed just offside at the end of another VAR check, so the lead remained at just one. That would change right on the stroke of half time though; after George Bello’s powerful drive was turned behind for a stoppage-time corner, Talovierov rose highest from the resulting delivery and headed in a well-deserved second!

No Late Twists for LASK This Time

Union Saint-Gilloise emerged from the changing rooms in search of a way back into the game, but despite spending a lot more time in LASK territory, the most that Lawal had to do was punch away a corner ball from inside the six-yard box in the opening stages of the second half. An early triple substitution for the guests confirmed that they were in need of fresh ideas before the hour, and although new man Kevin Rodriguez got on the ball in the box, he had several defenders around him to close down his shot as LASK remained calm and composed at the back. With 20 minutes remaining the home side began pushing for a third goal to kill off the contest, and the 15,400 fans did not have long to wait.

The introduction of Rene Renner after an injury-enforced absence was a welcome boost for Thomas Sageder and his team, and so was the next effort from Žulj once LASK had carved through the USG defence. He lofted the ball over the keeper and onto the crossbar, from whence it came back kindly to his feet, allowing the number 10 to slot in through the defenders with ease for 3-0! The home side were well and truly cruising into the closing stages. Florian Flecker side-footed over the bar in the final minutes, the guests hit a couple of drives well wide of Lawal’s goal, and ultimately, LASK coasted through to full time with the points safely secured long before the final whistle. The Linzers remain at the foot of the Group E table for now, but with three points on the board, the chances of being able to climb up the standings in the final two match days have increased hugely. Deservedly so, after an impressive home performance on the European stage.

The line-ups

LASK: Lawal; Bello (Renner, 74’), Andrade, Ziereis, Stojković (Ljubičić, 75’); Horvath, Talovierov, Ljubić (Jovičić, 87’); Usor (Balić, 83’), Žulj ©, Mustapha (Flecker, 74’)

Subs: Siebenhandl, Jungwirth, Renner, Balić, Jovičić, Havel, Ba, Goiginger, Flecker, Luckeneder

Goals: Horvath, PK (25’), Talovierov (45’+4), Žulj 77’

Yellow cards: Ljubić (19’), Stojković (49’)

ROYAL UNION SG: Moris; Machida, Burgess, Mac Allister, Castro-Montes (Terho, 57’); Lapoussin, Amani, Vanhoutte (Sadiki, 57’); Puertas (Teklab, 75’), Eckert (Rodriguez, 46’), Amoura (Rasmussen, 57’)

Subs: Imbrechts, Wenssens, Rasmussen, Teklab, Rodriguez, Terho, Sykes, Sadiki, Huygevelde, Leysen

Yellow cards: Puertas (70’)

Author: TOB