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Raiffeisen Arena, 28th April 2021

LASK were held to a draw despite an impressive performance against Sturm Graz in Pasching on Wednesday. With sixteen shots compared to just two from the visitors, the goalless scoreline was a bitter pill to swallow, but a late injury to Philipp Wiesinger overshadowed the result in any case.

Head coach Dominik Thalhammer challenged his squad to rise to the occasion as LASK prepared for their return fixture against SK Sturm having tasted defeat in Graz just three days prior, losing third spot in the table as a result. The expected 3-4-3 formation featured Dominik Reiter starting on the right of the attacking trio, with Marvin Potzmann and Lukas Grgic getting the nod on the left side of the midfield as LASK looked to spread the workload given the frequency of fixtures at this stage of the season.

The opening minutes of the game saw the home team heeding the manager’s advice, and come flying out of the blocks! Good work from Potzmann down the left almost gave Husein Balic a chance inside the box, and a James Holland shot had to be charged down before we’d even reached five minutes. LASK didn’t have to wait much longer for the first real opening of the game either, as a floated ball forward from Grgic was brought down by Balic in the area; his chip left the Sturm keeper stranded, but Gazibegovic was able to clear off the goal line. Gernot Trauner headed the resulting corner agonisingly wide, and the hunt for the opening goal continued.

The Black and Whites kept up the pressure, allowing the visitors no time or space to settle. With little in the way of defending to do, Trauner again made his presence felt in the Sturm area, heading the ball towards Johannes Eggestein at the back post. With a tight angle to goal there was very little that looked on for the number thirteen, yet he hooked the ball over his own head, only to see it come crashing back down off Siebenhandl’s crossbar with twenty minutes played.

The high-tempo football from the hosts rendered the first half a one-sided affair, as they continued to pepper the Sturm goal with shots. Just after the half-hour mark Balic laid-off for Reiter to take aim, but his effort sailed just over. Five minutes later Grgic drew a smart stop from Siebenhandl after skilful build up play from both Balic and Potzmann on the left, before it was Potzmann’s turn to fire over when he met a long, floating cross to the back post.

With no breakthrough before the interval, there was an air of disappointment around the Raiffeisen Arena as LASK headed for the changing rooms. The target for the second half was clear; to keep up the intensity, and to get the goal that the performance merited.

Just seconds after the break Balic had the next effort on goal for the home side, but his low shot didn’t have enough power to beat the keeper. For their part, Sturm were showing signs of improvement, and Philipp Wiesinger needed to make a fine tackle to prevent Yeboah from breaking into the area, but nevertheless it was Eggestein who had the next shot on target, firing straight at the keeper from the left of the area almost ten minutes after the restart.

A triple substitution on the hour from coach Thalhammer helped LASK regain a clear upper hand in the contest, but that final ball was still proving elusive. Andrade had a go at providing just such a ball, but his dangerous delivery across the six-yard box was narrowly missed by Reiter in the centre, and fired only into the side-netting by Ranftl.

Suddenly the game was into the final fifteen minutes, and the pressure to find a winner was building as Sturm Graz appeared to have settled for a point. Stoppages and substitutions meant that the chances were drying up as well as the free flowing football, but sadly there was a sting in the tail still to come for the hosts, as Wiesinger had to be stretchered off the field with the game nearing stoppage time. The match remained goalless to the whistle, and although it was a point apiece, the draw certainly suited the visitors more than the hosts.

LASK must now put this one behind them and focus their attention on Saturday’s Austrian Cup final, where they will meet Red Bull Salzburg in a battle for a first major trophy since the league and cup double of 1965.

By Tom Middler from The Other Bundesliga (@OtherBundesliga)

The line-ups:

LASK: Schlager; Wiesinger, Trauner, Andrade; Potzmann (Filipovic 59’), Grgic, Holland (Michorl 59’), Ranftl; Balic (Goiginger 59’), Eggestein (Sabitzer 80’), Reiter (Altunbas 85’)

Subs: Gebauer, Sabitzer, Filipovic, Michorl, Altunbas, Madsen, Goiginger

SK Sturm Graz: Siebenhandl; Dante, Gorenc-Stankovic, Nemeth, Gazibegovic (Jäger 90’); Ljubic (Geyrhofer 61’); Kuen (Mwepu 76’), Hierländer; Kiteishvili; Jantscher, Yeboah (Balaj 90’)

Subs: Schützenauer, Geyrhofer, Jäger, Shabanhaxhaj, Balaj, Huspek, Mwepu

Yellow Cards: Geyrhofer, Dante, Jantscher, Gorenc-Stankovic