Written By Adam Chester
Matchday 14 saw the 2nd round of fixtures since the Winter break restart with 4 teams looking to continue their push for a title challenge. Despite the wintery conditions at some stadiums, we were still treated to 20 goals across the 6 midweek matches.
We start this week’s round up at SK Sturm Graz who came into this game on Tuesday against TSV Hartberg needing a much needed 3 points, after their heavy 4-1 defeat at the weekend to Rapid Vienna, having only conceded 4 goals all season beforehand. The black & whites dominated the first half with chances very early on but finally broke TSV Hartberg’s defensive resistance in the 22nd when Georgian midfielder OtarKiteishvili turned the ball home from a corner. Just 3 minutes later SK Sturm Graz doubled their lead, Kevin Friesenbichler’s superb ball over the top of the defence was brilliantly converted by Jakob Jantscher on the half volley. SK Sturm Graz were comfortable seeing out the rest of the first half, keeping possession of the ball & taking a 2-goal lead into the break. TSV Hartberg came out in the 2nd half needing to improve on their 1st half performance if they were to get anything out of the game, having only mustered up a single effort off target. However, it was SK Sturm Graz who began the 2nd half as they had ended the 1st with Ljubic & Gorenc-Stankovic both having opportunities to extend the lead. But it was TSV Hartberg, with their only shot on target in the game, who got the much-needed goal as Tobias Kainz scored his 1stleague goal of the season with a brilliant long range effort just before the hour. This only sparked the black & whites back into action as they continued to control the game again, although there were few chances for either team. A crucial win for SK Sturm Graz keeps them in 3rd place just off top spot, meanwhile TSV Hartberg remain in 9th, just 3 points off the championship group with 8 games to play.
SK STURM GRAZ 2-1 TSV HARTBERG: Kiteishvili(22), Jantscher (25); Kainz (58)
The other game on Tuesday night saw Austria Vienna travel to FC Admira Wacker knowing that a win was needed if they were to keep pressure on Wolfsberger AC in 6th place. In very wintery conditions the first half failed to produce any goals, with FC Admira Wacker having the better of the chances with Dominik Starkl going closest for the hosts. However, the 2nd half saw a reenergised Austria Vienna, who blitzed their way to victory. Chances early on from BenediktPichler & Dominik Fitz were warning signs of what was to come for the hosts. The deadlock was finally broken by the violets on the hour mark after brilliant work from ManpritSarkaria on the left saw Markus Suttner’s cross converted by BenediktPichler. This appeared to open the flood gates as another chance was spurred for Austria Vienna before Georg Teigl turned the ball home to make it 2-0 in the 70thminute. The violets then made a defensive change as Johannes Handl was brought on in place of ChristophSchosswendter, little did they know that this substitution would have an instant impact. Within 3 mins of coming on Johannes Handl hit a superb effort from the edge of the box into the bottom corner to secure the points, and he wasn’tfinished there, as he then headed home his 2nd & Austria Vienna’s 4th of the night from a Markus Suttner corner. A very good performance from Austria Vienna in tough conditions sees them move within 1 point of the top 6, meanwhile FC Admira Wacker remain bottom having now conceded 39 goals in 14 matches.
FC ADMIRA WACKER 0-4 AUSTRIA VIENNA: Pichler (60), Teigl (70), Handl (78 & 84)
The first of Wednesday’s early fixtures saw Rapid Vienna host SKN St Polten at the Allianz Stadium with the hosts hoping to keep pressure on RB Salzburg at the top of the league. Rapid were hoping to start the game where they left off, following their convincing 4-1 victory against Sturm Graz, but found themselves behind early on after Michael Blauensteiner played through Alexander Schmidt who then rounded the keeper before slotting into the empty net, scoring his 10th league goal of the season in just 12 appearances. However, SKN St Polten’s lead lasted just 60 seconds as Rapid lived up to their name. Straight from kick off Rapid kept possession and eventually worked the ball out to Filip Stojkovic whose cross was headed home by Christoph Knasmullner to level the game. With the scores level at half time, Rapid came out the much stronger side after the break, controlling much of the ball & creating plenty of chances. The winning goal finally came in the 66th minute as Ercan Kara scored an acrobatic effort after brilliant work from Thorsten Schick on the right-hand side, as he lifted the ball back from the byline. A very strong performance from the hosts keeps their title challenge alive, having won all 3 since the heavy 6-2 defeat against RB Salzburg in week 11, whilst SKN St Polten miss the opportunity to move in the championship group.
RAPID VIENNA 2-1 SKN ST POLTEN: Knasmuller (16), Kara (68); Schmidt (15)
Meanwhile in Salzburg the current champions were looking to maintain their challenge for an 8th successive Bundesliga title as they hosted SV Ried. Having not beaten the red bulls in their previous 8 meetings it was always going to be a tough ask for SV Ried. A dominate first half display was enough to seal all 3 points for Salzburg & keep them at the summit, with Rasmus Kristensen opening the scoring inside 15 minutes, as he drilled a brilliant left footed effort into the bottom corner from the edge of the area, following good hold up work from new arrival Brendan Aaronson. The lead was then doubled just before the half hour as Sekou Koita turned Zlatko Junuzovic’s outswinging corner past the keeper with a brilliant header, his 10th league goal of the season in just 13 appearances; averaging a goal every 60 minutes! Confidence continued to flow through this free scoring team & they had sealed the points before half time as African sensation Patson Dakaconverted his 11th goal of the season, after a poor pass from Constantin Reiner into Marcel Ziegl allowed Sekou Koita to slot the ball through & Daka made no mistake to make it 3-0. The 2nd half failed to produce any more goals but again was controlled by the hosts as SV Ried continued to have their backs to the wall, seeing very little of the ball. A comfortable performance sees RB Salzburg maintain their place at the top & they will now be looking to the weekends trip to TSV Hartberg, whilst SV Ried remain in 10th.
RB SALZBURG 3-0 SV RIED: Kristensen (15), Koita(29), Daka (45)
The other early kick off on Wednesday saw WSG Tirol host SC Altach with both sides needing a victory for different reasons, with the hosts coming into the game following a very impressive victory at the weekend against LASK Linz. With temperatures below freezing the game started with a minute’s silence for the honorary president of WSG Tirol, Gernot Langes, who passed away. This was then followed by a very slow start to the game with both sides struggling to create any real chances. This was until the 25th minute when the impressive trio of Florian Rieder, Nikolai Frederiksen & Kelvin Yeboah combined, with Yeboah finishing off a brilliant one-two from Frederiksen with an effort from just outside the box. WSG Tirol continued to pile on the pressure and doubled their lead in the 37th minute as Nikolai Frederiksen turned home a volley after a brilliant cross from Florian Rieder. The last of the trio then got in on the goalscoring fun just 2 minutes later, as Rieder this time curled a superb effort into the bottom corner following a cut back from Yeboah. SC Altach having failed to register a single shot at goal were then given a lifeline as a long ball, from goalkeeper Martin Kobras, was flicked on to Chinedu Obasi who beat 2 defenders before playing through Manfred Fischer who kept his cool to convert & make it 3-1. Route one football at its best. The 2nd half saw WSG Tirol sit back & play on the counter attack but with both sides limited to opportunities the score line remained 3-1, and the hosts pick up another 3 points following another impressive display. As for SC Altach yet another defeat, and only 4 points accumulated from their last 10 games, leaves them in 11th.
WSG TIROL 3-1 SC ALTACH: Yeboah (25), Frederiksen (37), Rieder (39); Fischer (44)
The final fixture of the round saw LASK Linz travel to Wolfsberger AC, as they looked to bounce back from the shock home defeat at the weekend and keep in touch with the title challengers. LASK started off the better of the 2 sides in the first half as Alexander Kofler was called in action with saves from Peter Michorl & Reinhold Ranftl. But they were unable to break the deadlock as both sides went in goalless at the half. It wasn’t until the 2nd half that Wolfsberger AC were able to muster an opportunity on target, which was easily held by Alexander Schlager. LASK were then able to break the deadlock after a clinical counter attack which saw Gernot Trauner intercept a ball in his own area before releasing Andreas Gruber with a direct ball who then kept his cool & rounded Koflerbefore converting from a tight angle. The pressured continued to be piled on & LASK got their reward as Gruber was again on target to convert his 2nd goal on the hour mark, after Wolfsberger AC failed to clear from a throw in allowing Johannes Eggestein to lay the ball into his path. The game was far from over at 2-0 though as Wolfsberger AC came alive & forced Schlager into a couple of big saves. However, LASK were then able to kill the game off in the 79th minute when James Holland hit a volley into the corner of the net following another poor defensive clearance from the Wolfsberger AC backline. A convincing 3-0 victory for LASK was more than enough for the visitors as they keep in touch at the top, whereas as for Wolfsberger AC, despite defeat, they remain in the final championship spot just 1 point ahead of Austria Vienna.
WOLFSBERGER AC 0-3 LASK LINZ: Gruber (50 & 60), Holland (79)