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Huvepharma Arena, Razgrad, 10 December 2020
LASK ended their 2020/21 UEFA Europa League campaign with an emphatic victory away to Bulgarian champions Ludogorets. Phillip Wiesinger’s 25-yard thunderbolt, a Rene Renner penalty and Mads Emil Madsen’s header sealed the Linzers the three points in Razgrad to end their second-ever appearance in the group stages on a high.
Dominik Thalhammer’s men had dominated during the first half, and missed a penalty via Thomas Goiginger, but it was the Eagles that took an unlikely lead a matter of seconds into the second half through Elvis Manu, their first chance in the entire game up to that point. But Wiesinger, Renner’s penalty and Madsen all stepped up to make sure it was a night to enjoy in northern Bulgaria and secured the club 10 points – the highest of any team finishing third in their group.
Both clubs headed into the contest already eliminated from the 2020/21 Europa League group stages, with Ludogorets looking for their first points of the campaign whilst LASK came a whisker from taking it to the final day in a memorable 3-3 draw against Premier League leaders Tottenham Hotspur. In terms of the line-up, Thalhammer made three changes from the team that beat SV Ried in the Upper Austria derby on Sunday, with Yevgen Cheberko, Mads Emil Madsen and Dominik Reiter all coming into the starting XI.
And it was the incoming Reiter who had LASK’s first real chances of the match. Firstly, he found space in the box but saw his attempt cannon off the back of a defender, this was quickly followed by the 22-year-old popping up with a quick shot from the edge of box surprising goalkeeper Plamen Iliev and came back off the woodwork.
LASK kept up their dominance with both Thomas Goiginger and Rene Renner peppering the goal of the home side on multiple occasions as the Black and Whites asserted their dominance in the contest.
Reiter headed wide of the post, quickly followed by Johannes Eggestein having a wonderful opportunity inside the six-yard box, but Iliev was equal to the effort and produced an excellent save to deny him.
As the first half winded down, LASK were given a superb opportunity to score an opener as Bulgarian international defender Cicinho brought down Eggestein in the box and referee Vitali Meshkov gave a penalty! Up stepped Thomas Goiginger for the visitors, but Iliev was more than a match to the spot kick and saved impressively to the left. A frustrating first half for LASK with an incredible 13 attempts on goal to Ludogorets’ zero.
As is the case in football, if you don’t take your chances, it always comes back to bite you. And that is exactly what happened in the opening 30 seconds of the second half as substitute Manu, who scored a hat-trick at the Linzer Stadion in October, scored the opening goal of the game from inside the six-yard box. First chance, first goal for the Bulgarian outfit.
The goal inspired the Razgard side as Alex Schlager was forced into his first save of the game by tipping Claudiu Keseru’s free kick around the post.
As the game ticked into the 56th minute, the tides turns in the game as the ball came to Philipp Wiesinger on the half-way line and the defender strode forward with purpose and lashed in from 25-yards for a wonderful equaliser to make it 1-1.
On the hour mark, the entire outlook of the game changed as Alex Santana tackled Eggestein aggressively in the box and was sent off by the Russian referee – and in LASK’s second penalty of the night Rene Renner fired home with aplomb to put the Austrian side ahead – a deserved lead.
A third came quickly after with Eggestein playing provider with a lovely cross into the box onto the head of Danish playmaker Madsen to coolly head home for his first goal for the club.
The visitors continued to attack and Balic came extremely close to adding a fourth but Iliev tipped his glancing effort onto the crossbar and away, an excellent save by the Ludogorets shot stopper on a busy evening.
In the end, it was a brilliant performance from the Linz side as they say goodbye to European competition for the season. See you again soon Europe!
Ludogorets: Iliev, Ikoko, Sa, Verdon, Cicinho, Santana, Souza (Yankov 77’), Badji (Anicet Abel 77’), Despodov, Keseru (Tekpetey 77’), Tchibota (Manu 46’)
Goals: Manu 46’
Red Card: Santana 61‘
LASK: Schlager, Cherberko, Andrade, Wiesinger (Ramsebner 86‘), Renner, Madsen, Holland, Ranftl (Potzmann 73‘), Goiginger (Balic 62‘), Eggestein, Reiter (Gruber 63‘)
Goals: Wiesinger 56‘, Renner 62‘, Madsen 67‘
Written by Simon Clark from The Other Bundesliga