UEFA Europa League Matchday 6: LASK 1-2 Toulouse
LASK’s dreams of qualifying for the UEFA Europa Conference League were dashed on Thursday night as Toulouse picked up a late victory at the Raiffeisen Arena. Despite Marin Ljubicic’s equaliser on the hour mark, it wasn’t enough as Thijs Dallinga and Gabriel Suazo both scored in the second half to secure the French club’s passage out of the groups. LASK had periods of dominance during the match, but also had goalkeeper Tobias Lawal to thank with the young goalkeeper producing multiple superb saves. Despite good chances for Filip Stojković, Ivan Ljubic and Ljubicic once again; it simply wasn’t to be on the night.
Thomas Sageder’s side had gone into the final matchday with a chance of qualifying for the UEFA Europa Conference League Play-Off Round by beating Toulouse and hoping that Liverpool would do them a favour against Union Saint-Gilloise by taking. The LASK coach chose the same line-up that played at Anfield in a battling performance, whilst hoping for a more positive outcome against the French outfit.
The Linzers had ended their 2023 domestic duties in the Austrian Bundesliga with a 3-1 away win at strugglers Austria Lustenau and sit in third position, whilst Toulouse are currently 15th in the Ligue 1 table and had been winless since their upset win over Liverpool on November 9th.
The pressure for the victory was on LASK, so it was no surprise that the hosts produced the opening opportunity with Moses Usor’s cross just evading Robert Žulj in the middle. LASK were on top and after an encouraging 10 minutes a deflected cross found Filip Stojković unmarked at the back post and the Montenegrin lashed a volley to force a smart save from Guillaume Restes.
LASK’s positive start continued and were almost rewarded after Ljubicic skillfully laid the ball back to Ivan Ljubic whose shot from distance veered just over the bar. The French side had started to come alive with captain Vincent Sierro seeing a chance blocked by the LASK defence, followed by George Bello interrupting Cristian Casseres at the crucial moment but Toulouse slowly became more of a threat as the first half ticked along.
Out of nowhere Tobias Lawal was forced into action in the 35th minute and produced a remarkable save from César Gelabert’s quickly-taken shot to divert away from goal, followed four minutes later by Gelabert once again being denied by the young Austrian after a clearance from the defence allowed the Spaniard space to fire an attempt at goal - simply superb from Lawal. The final chance of the half fell to Usor in the middle but his centrally positioned header was no trouble to Restes as the opening 45 minutes remained goalless.
Unfortunately for the Black and Whites, the visitors took the lead with the first major opportunity of the second half. The Violets broke away on a three-man counter attack after Ibrahim Cissoko pickpocketed LASK in the midfield, played through to Gelabert who assisted Dallinga on the right to slot past Lawal for the opening goal.
LASK’s urgency increased dramatically as Ljubic tried his luck from outside the area but saw the fizz from his attempt slowed down by a deflection and was easily cleared. However, cometh the hour - cometh Marin Ljubicic. The Croatian striker levelled the match in the 61st minute with a brilliant near post header from Stojković’s swinging cross to bring the Linzers back with a chance. The pendulum had swung LASK’s way and Bello tried to capitalise but wasted the potential chance as the hosts kept up the pressure in search of a potentially crucial goal.
Despite attacking substitutions from Sageder and a period of dominance, it was to no avail. With only seven minutes remaining the visitors paraded down the right side with Aron Donnum and crossed with accuracy to Suazo in the middle to finish with ease for Toulouse’s second.
Ljubicic saw a golden opportunity saved by Restes in the immediate aftermath of the goal but with Union Saint-Gilloise beating Liverpool and LASK needing two goals in the final minutes for an unlikely qualification, the hopes faded away and so did another season of European competition for LASK.
By Simon Clark from The Other Bundesliga (@OtherBundesliga)
LASK: Lawal; Talovierov (Goiginger 79’), Andrade, Ziereis; Bello, Horvath, Ljubic, Stojković (Flecker 70’); Usor (Havel 88’), Žulj, Ljubicic (Kone 88’)
Subs: Siebenhandl, Jungwirth; Kone, Balic, Jovicic, Havel, Ba, Luckeneder, Darboe
Goals: Ljubicic 61’
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