13.12.2018 21:06
UEFA Europa League, Team, Rangers FC, Match report

Late Ljubicic goal floors Rangers

The situation in Group G of the UEFA Europa League could hardly have been more finely balanced heading into the final match day. SK Rapid and Glasgow Rangers were facing off in Vienna in a direct duel for qualification: Rapid needed only a draw - an often dangerous situation to deal with in football - while Rangers came to Hütteldorf needing a victory to progress. The gravity of the situation wasn't lost on either set of supporters, with all 23,850 tickets for the game in the Allianz Stadium snapped up a week in advance. Included in the number were 2,500 Scots: the atmosphere was befitting of the occasion.

Christopher Dibon had recovered sufficiently from injury to take a place on the bench, but sadly Mario Sonnleitner lost his race to be fit for the game and wasn't included in the squad. Also on the bench were Philipp Schobesberger, Christoph Knasmüllner and Dejan Ljubicic - who would play a decisive role later in the evening's events. Midfield consisted of Andrei Ivan, Thomas Murg and Boli Bolingoli, while Veton Berisha was given a starting berth further up the pitch. Max Hofmann was brought in at centre back. Ahead of the match, Didi Kühbauer had already made it clear that he wanted his side to take the initiative, rather than sit back and react to a Rangers side with numerous attacking threats.

From kick-off the match became something of a midfield battle, with the Hütteldorfers unwilling to concede territory or possession. The nature of the game meant that set-pieces looked like playing an increasingly important role, and it was from dead-ball situations that most of the first half chances arrived: Rangers' Barisic tested Richard Strebinger with an early free-kick (15.), but a real moment of danger for Rapid came shortly after when Golson got on the end of another free-kick and headed the ball onto the crossbar. The rebound fortunately cannoned away out of the danger zone rather than to the feet of a Scot, and Rapid could breathe a sigh of relief (21.). Thomas Murg sent a free-kick for the Green & Whites just wide of the target (24.), but in general it was a first half of few opportunities and little attacking thrust.

 

The second half brought with it a rise in tempo and attacking quality from Rapid: Christoph Knasmüllner came off the bench in place of Murg and immediately started finding space, registering the first shot on target with an albeit weak effort that Gers' keeper Alan McGregor easily dealt with (52.). As the game wore on and the tension rose, Rapid had their twelfth man at their backs: The Block West continued to ramp up the support and ensured a wall of noise swept across the pitch. The cacophony of sound lifted the Hüttledorfers and it was Rapid who looked the more likely to make the crucial breakthrough. Knasmüllner went close with a freekick (60.), before Stefan Schwab fired narrowly over (79.). Rangers still carried threat as their desperation grew, and Tavernier drew a save from Strebinger with a long-range effort the Rapid keeper expertly pushed away from the danger zone (82.

Then came the decisive moment that all but ended the tie and left the Scots’ campaign in tatters: A poor clearance was seized upon by Ljubicic, who played a smart one-two with Knasmüllner on the edge of the box before producing a composed finish, sliding the ball past the onrushing keeper and into the net – 1:0 (84.)! A deafening noise rang out around Hütteldorf, as the Green & White supporters knew they had secured a berth in the round of 32!

We'll learn our opponent for the February resumption of the knock-out stages this coming Monday when the draw is made in Nyon at 13:00 and keep you posted on the outcome! But for now, let's simply enjoy a momentous evening and a European success - RAPID!!

(gw)

 

UEFA Europa League, Group G:
SK Rapid - Rangers FC 1:0 (0:0)
Weststadion, 23.850 Attendance, Ref Mazzoleni (ITA)

Goal: 1:0 Ljubicic (84.);

SK Rapid: Strebinger – Müldür, Hofmann, Barac, Auer – Martic (78./Ljubicic), Schwab – Ivan (62./Schobesberger), Murg (46./Knasmüllner), Bolingoli – Berisha;

Rangers FC: McGregor – Tavernier, McAuley, Goldson, Barisic – McCrorie – Arfield, Jack (78./Lafferty), Coulibaly (71./Grezda), Middleton – Morelos;

Yellow Cards: Ivan, Müldür, Martic; Jack, Goldson