Aus­tria Rapid de­cline in Vi­enna

World Soccer - - Contents - Brian Home­wood

When Rapid Vi­enna be­gan the sea­son with a 5-0 vic­tory over SV Ried, their fans thought it might be the start of a ti­tle-win­ning cam­paign to cel­e­brate the com­ple­tion of their new sta­dium.

Lit­tle did they know that, by the end of the sea­son, that re­sult would have more rel­e­vance in the fight against rel­e­ga­tion than at the top of the ta­ble.

In­stead of end­ing their nine-year wait for a league ti­tle, Rapid em­ployed three coaches, fired their sport­ing di­rec­tor and at one point en­dured a club record nine-match win­less run as they limped home in fifth place.

They did, how­ever, reach the Aus­trian Cup Fi­nal, where they pro­duced one of their best per­for­mances of the sea­son, only to lose to a late goal against dou­ble win­ners Red Bull Salzburg.

The new Al­lianz Sta­dion, built on the site of the old Ger­hard Hanappi but ro­tated 90 de­grees com­pared to its pre­de­ces­sor, was sup­posed to give fresh im­pulse to a team that had given RB Salzburg a run for their money the pre­vi­ous sea­son.

But the cam­paign be­gan badly. Zo­ran Barisic was re­placed by Ger­man coach Mike Buskens and then, when the fans dis­cov­ered that 19-year-old striker Max­i­m­il­ian En­trup, one of seven new sign­ings, was pre­vi­ously a mem­ber of an Aus­tria Vi­enna fan club, he was greeted on his de­but with a ban­ner that read: “The Green Hell will make your life an in­ferno.”

De­spite a shock de­feat to Al­tach, things still looked promis­ing early on, but a 4-1 win at Aus­tria Vi­enna and a 4-2 ag­gre­gate vic­tory over Trencin to reach the Europa League group stage was about as good as it got.

In Oc­to­ber they suf­fered a first loss at the new sta­dium, against Aus­tria Vi­enna, and de­feat in their next home game, against Wolfs­berger, led to sport­ing di­rec­tor An­dreas Muller and coach Buskens be­ing shown the door.

Damir Canadi, un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously poached from Al­tach, took charge of the team but the move back­fired and Rapid went on a nine-match win­less run that cul­mi­nated in a dread­ful 3-0 de­feat at bot­tom-of-the-ta­ble Ried.

On the way back to Vi­enna the team bus stopped at a mo­tor­way ser­vice sta­tion for a “con­ver­sa­tion” with a group of ul­tras, which the club in­sisted had been pre-ar­ranged. Canadi was fired the fol­low­ing day and re­placed by his as­sis­tant, Go­ran Djuricin.

Hans Krankl, the club’s most fa­mous for­mer player and ex-coach, weighed in on the mo­tor­way in­ci­dent, say­ing: “If I were the trainer, the bus would have kept driv­ing.”

On the field, how­ever, things be­gan to calm down. Rapid fi­nally ended their win­less spell with a 3-0 vic­tory over Al­tach in Goricin’s first match, and al­though they lost their next two games, to Aus­tria Vi­enna and Ad­mira Wacker, a run of four wins in their last five games lifted them away from rel­e­ga­tion.

How­ever, a dread­fully dis­ap­point­ing fifth-place fin­ish in the league, cou­pled with de­feat in the Cup Fi­nal, means that, for the first time in six sea­sons, Rapid will miss out on Euro­pean foot­ball.

Strug­gle...Rapid’s Louis Schaub (left) in ac­tion against SV Ried

Dread­ful run... Damir Canadi

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