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LASK kicked off their 2021/22 UEFA Conference League campaign with an important away win as they beat Vojvodina 1-0 in the third qualifying round first leg on Thursday. The Linzers initially struggled to make the breakthrough in front of 6,000 home fans at Karađorđe Stadium, but Peter Michorl’s delightful curler with 20 minutes to go puts them in the driving seat ahead of the return leg in Klagenfurt in a week’s time.

Having finished fourth in the Bundesliga last term, LASK earned a place in the qualifiers of the UEFA Conference League, Europe’s brand-new tertiary club competition. The draw pitted them against Vojvodina, who finished fourth in the Serbian SuperLiga last season. Coach Dominik Thalhammer made three changes to the team that drew 1-1 with Rapid Vienna at the weekend – bringing in Yannis Letard, Marvin Potzmann and Mamoudou Karamoko in place of Dario Maresic, Florian Flecker and Husein Balic – but kept with his preferred 3-4-3 formation.


LASK had the better of the early chances in Novi Sad – there were attempts by Letard, Karamoko and Rene Renner in the opening quarter of an hour –and almost took the lead in the 17th minute when the excellent Lukas Grgic threaded a lovely through-ball to Alexander Schmidt, whose low effort across the face of goal was well turned behind by Vojvodina keeper Nikola Simic. The hosts had come close to opening the scoring themselves two minutes earlier, but Momcilo Mrkaic could not quite steer Vladan Novevski’s beautifully delivered free-kick on target.


The visitors remained in the ascendancy, dominating possession and creating two good half-chances as the half-hour mark approached: Potzmann first cut inside and struck a curling effort that was beaten away to safety by Simic, before Schmidt was denied from a narrow angle after stealing in to intercept a loose ball in the penalty area. Renner then drew another excellent save from Simic five minutes later with a curler from the edge of the box. Aside from a quickly taken free-kick that required an intervention from Alexander Schlager in the 36th minute, LASK looked fully in control all the way up until the break – but were not clinical enough and arguably held on to the ball for too long at certain key moments during the opening half.


Thalhammer opted to make a change at the break, bringing on Florian Flecker in place of Potzmann. But LASK struggled to carve open clear-cut opportunities in the ensuing minutes, with the heavy downpour that arrived directly after the restart making for a slippery surface and thwarting any attempt at slick passing along the ground. Instead, Vojvodina came within millimetres of taking the lead in the 57th minute via Nemanja Covic’s swerving effort, which left Schlager rooted to the spot but fortunately rebounded back off the upright.


That moment of danger seemed to serve as a wake-up call for LASK, who looked livelier thereafter and brought on Husein Balic and Hyunseok Hong for Karamoko and Goiginger just after the hour-mark. Almost immediately, the South Korean made a brilliant no-look pass in to Schmidt who fired wide of the near post from the corner of the six-yard box. Then came the deserved breakthrough! With 20 minutes to go, Michorl played a one-two with Flecker before curling brilliantly beyond the outstretched fingertips of Simic and into the net. 1-0! Shortly after the goal, the impressive Letard made way for Maresic.


Despite falling behind, Vojvodina offered little in the way of a response and remained very much on the back foot. As normal time drew to a close, Luka Cucin was shown a red card for a tackle on Balic that left the forward lying prostrate on the ground and needing medical assistance. He ultimately could not continue and was replaced by Matias Succar in stoppage time. LASK will now turn their attentions to Sunday’s league game against WSG Wattens, before hosting Vojvodina in the return leg next Thursday.


By Lee Wingate from The Other Bundesliga (@OtherBundesliga)


The line-ups:

FK Vojdovina: Simic; Devetak, Stevanovic, Kovacevic, Cucin; Busnic, Covic, Topic; Mrkaic (Mrkaic 46‘), Novevski (Zukic 68‘), Simic (Bastajic 86‘)

Subs: Vuklis, Maksimovic, Miletic, Jelicic, Miric, Stojsavljevic,

Red card: Cucin (90+1‘)

LASK: Schlager – Letard (Maresic 73‘), Wiesinger, Filipovic – Potzmann (Flecker 46‘), Grgic, Michorl, Renner – Goiginger (Hong 72‘), Schmidt, Karamoko (Balic 72‘, Succar 90+3‘)

Subs: Gebauer, Polster, Wild, Boller, Radulovic

Goal: Michorl (70‘)