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"We can learn a lot from this game"

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A packed stadium, an emotional showdown, moving moments, and an impressive atmosphere – the last home game of the season for LASK in the ADMIRAL Bundesliga had everything a football fan could desire. Following a 2-2 draw in front of 18,500 spectators at the Raiffeisen Arena against SK Sturm Graz, the athletes could reflect on a successful afternoon, including a record-breaking points haul in the championship group.

The draw against the league leaders not only kept the Linz team unbeaten for the fifth time in six matches under head coach Thomas Darazs but also saw them equal their own record in the championship group one round before the end of the season. The athletes gathered 17 points in the previous nine games, precisely as many as they did in the inaugural season of the championship group in 2018/19. Furthermore, they scored two or more goals for the fourth consecutive time – a feat last achieved more than four years ago in the 2019/20 season.

This pleased Darazs greatly: "What brings me the most joy is that we've shed our reluctance to play football. That feeling of the ball at our feet, enjoying the game with the ball," emphasized the 46-year-old. "I like the way we're currently playing football. I think the fans appreciate it too," added defender Maksym Talovierov.

LASK, with Maksym Talovierov (left) and Adil Taoui (second from left), remains undefeated at the Raiffeisen Arena against Sturm.

Improved pass completion rate

These numbers are supported by the pass completion rate, which has soared to over 85 percent in recent weeks. Against Sturm, it was slightly lower at just under 77 percent, partly due to the opposition's style of play. "It was a game from which we can learn a lot and draw the right conclusions for the future," emphasized Darazs, who encourages players to go beyond the basic idea and create their own solutions for specific situations in the game.

The bravery in their own build-up play proved to be the right approach against Sturm as well, although the Graz team capitalized on one of these situations to gain possession and subsequently score the equalizer. "That's part of the game," said Darazs, referring to Florian Flecker's opening goal, which resulted from such a successful attack following a continuous buildup. "It was necessary to play like this to take the wind out of the opponent's sails due to their style of play," explained the head coach.

The two goal scorers among themselves: Florian Flecker (left) and Marin Ljubicic.

Play-off for Europe League

Since Sunday evening, the final placement has been determined, with LASK finishing the season in third place for the fifth time since the founding of the Bundesliga in 1980, following their placements in 1980, 1984, 1985, and 2023. This, like last year, means participation in the Europa League playoffs, which will be held on August 22 and 29. In case of advancement, there will be at least eight more matches in the main competition, following the reforms in international competitions, which will now adopt a league format with 36 teams. In the Conference League, there would be six more games scheduled.

Two anniversaries

"It hasn't been an easy season, we've had our ups and downs. But as a team, we've shown tremendous character, coming closer together during the tough times and fighting our way to third place, which was our goal from the start," summarized captain Robert Zulj, who played his second match after recovering from a knee injury. "I'm very grateful to those who helped me during this difficult time. It feels really good," the 32-year-old expressed his happiness. For Zulj, his substitution shortly before the end also marked his 150th Bundesliga game. Another celebrant on this afternoon was Tobias Lawal, who guarded LASK's goal for the 50th time in a competitive match.

To close the season, the team faces a trip to Salzburg next Sunday, where they can play freely and will once again pool all their strengths to deliver a strong performance against the title defenders. "I can promise that we'll give 120 percent again and do everything to win the game," affirmed Talovierov.

Robert Zulj (left) and Tobias Lawal (second from left) each celebrated a milestone against Sturm.

Once a LASKler, always a LASKler

Afterwards, it's time to bid a final farewell to Sanoussy Ba, Felix Luckeneder, Peter Michorl, and Philipp Wiesinger. As reported, the quartet was duly honored before the match against Sturm. For Luckeneder, who got to play in the final stages, this marks the end of his second era at LASK after three and a half years. Prior to that, he had worn the black and white jersey from 2005 to 2018, rising from the club's youth ranks through the academy to the first team, leaving his mark in 164 appearances in the club's recent history. Unforgettable moments include his brace in the 2-1 derby victory against Blau-Weiß Linz in 2016 or the equalizer in front of the black and white crowd in this season's 1-1 draw against Rapid.

Michorl also significantly shaped the success story of the athletes. With 351 competitive appearances since joining LASK in 2014, the midfielder has entered an elite circle and ranks fourth in the all-time appearances list behind Klaus Dantlinger (374), Klaus Lindenberger (383), and Gerhard Sturmberger (414). From the second division to the Champions League playoff, the 29-year-old has left lasting impressions.

Wiesinger wore the LASK jersey for a total of eight years, amassing 173 appearances during that time. With goals like the spectacular 1-0 against Manchester United in the Europa League or the 2-1 winning goal against Rapid in 2018, the defender also secured a place in the club's history books. For Ba, his loan contract with the athletes ends after a year. The 20-year-old full-back arrived in Upper Austria from RB Leipzig in the summer and has made 15 competitive appearances to date.

LASK wishes all four professionals the best for their future endeavors – once a LASKler, always a LASKler!

Emotional farewell: Philipp Wiesinger (left), Peter Michorl, and company were celebrated one last time by the LASK fans and received fitting gifts from Sporting Director Radovan Vujanovic.