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LASK blew away opponents Vojvodina with a stunning second half performance to book their passage to the UEFA Europa Conference League Play-Off. The Serbian side had taken an early lead, only to be well and truly overhauled by a brace from Mamoudou Karamoko, as well as high-quality goals from Thomas Goiginger, Marvin Potzmann, Husein Balic and Alexander Schmidt.
Dominik Thalhammer’s team were looking to pick up where they left off last Thursday, as they faced Serbian side Vojvodina with a hard-earned 1-0 advantage carried over from the away game a week prior. Away goals no longer count in Europe, but LASK’s home advantage was something of an odd one given that the game was taking place hours away from Linz in Klagenfurt’s Wörthersee Stadium. The formation was the expected 3-4-3, but a few selection changes saw Yannis Letard start in the back line, and Husein Balic replaced Alexander Schmidt in attack.
The home team started brightly as Lukas Grgic flashed a header across goal from a corner after just 90 seconds, and just five minutes later it was another set-piece that was used effectively, as a number of potential free-kick takers confused everyone before Goiginger hammered a low shot which the visiting keeper couldn’t hold. There was no early way through for LASK though, and instead the early goal went to Vojvodina. All it took was a mis-kick from a bobbling ball in the defence, and Kabic was free to hook a first time shot into the bottom corner, wiping out the host’s aggregate advantage to level up at 1-1 inside the first 15 minutes.
After a few rocky moments, LASK moved up a gear and responded to the setback. The hosts began to establish much more possession, and despite struggling to break down their opponents, moments like Balic’s mazy run past a number of defenders from the right-hand corner suggested that there was life in the tie for the team yet. It wasn’t long before some neat passing had made room for Karamoko on the right of the area, and when he was chopped down, the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. The young Frenchman himself got up to take the penalty, before duly dispatching it into the bottom-left corner to edge LASK back in front in the tie (33’).
Five minutes before the break came the first golden opportunity to score a second goal. A precise through-pass from first-leg hero Michorl tore open the away defence, and Balic was on the end of it too, but his left-footed shot from an angle was tame, allowing the Serbian side to hack the ball clear. There was still time for another big moment when Florian Flecker was sent clear on the right; he held up the ball waiting for support, and then laid his pass perfectly across the box for Grgic, who could only side-foot a shot towards a relieved goalkeeper. After 45 minutes and no more, the whistle blew for half time to leave LASK with mixed feelings, after one defensive slip-up meant the game was tightly poised despite a confident overall performance.
The hosts sprang immediately into action in the second period as Balic pounced on a loose ball only to fire over the bar, before a series of corners came to nothing. Only three minutes had been played by the time Karamoko curled a shot goalwards from the edge of the box, forcing keeper Simic into his best diving save of the night. Minutes later though, the LASK goal scorer was not to be denied! A long ball over the top caused chaos at the back for Vojvodina, and Karamoko made no mistake as he calmly slotted the ball in at the back post for 2-1 on the night, and a two-goal cushion overall (53′).
Goiginger extended that advantage mere moments afterwards as LASK took full advantage of a blistering opening spell which allowed Vojvodina almost no possession for a quarter of an hour. A fast chain of passes was mesmerising to watch, but the end product was there too as the number 21 lashed the ball past Simic for 3-1 (56′) and had the fans dreaming of the next round ahead of time. Renner forced the suddenly overworked keeper into another stunning stop with a shot towards the near post after an hour, before attention turned to the substitutes‘ bench with the introduction of Schmidt and a well-earned rest for Karamoko and co.
Grgic soon worked some magic against two defenders, skilfully finding space to play a high cross for new man Potzmann to head home a fourth goal, (67′) and with that the contest was done and dusted. LASK still found time for Balic to crash in a low shot for 5-1 (80′) and Schmidt headed in Enrique Wild’s teasing cross (87′) to complete the set of goals for each of the LASK forwards. Letard was withdrawn after picking up a knock in the last few minutes, but the numerical disadvantage made no difference to what was an extremely impressive performance on the night. St. Johnstone of Scotland now lie in wait in the play-off round as LASK look to secure group stage football for another season.
LASK: Schlager – Letard, Wiesinger, Filipovic – Flecker, Grgic, Michorl, Renner – Goiginger, Karamoko, Balic
Subs: Boller, Gebauer, Hong, Maresic, Polster, Potzmann, Radulovic, Schmidt, Succar, Wild
Goals: Karamoko (34′ PK, 53′), Goiginger (56′), Potzmann (67′), Balic (80′), Schmidt (87′).
FK Vojvodina: Simic – Devetak, Stevanovic, Kovacevic, Jelicic – Topic, Kabic, Busnic – Simic, Covic, Novevski
Subs: Bastajic, Maksimovic, Miletic, Mrkaic, Neskovic, Stojsavljevic, Vukadinovic, Vuklis, Zukic
Goal: Kabic (13′)