Innsbruck issue after Steaua strike

Rapid want to get back on track in domestic competition after last night’s convincing Europa League win.

The Green-Whites beat Romanian club FCS Bucharest 3-1 in the first leg of the final qualification round for the lucrative Europa League group stage. The return leg next Thursday will be Rapid’s most crucial make-or-break moment so far this season, but their upcoming fixture is essential too.

The Vienna-Hütteldorf side lost 1-2 in Pasching against LASK last Sunday. This Sunday, they face Wacker Innsbruck for the first time in more than four years. Rapid beat the Tyrolean team 2-0 in May 2014 in what was the last of 721 competitive match at Gerhard Hanappi Stadium, Rapid’s former ground.

Innsbruck supporters had to endure several years of second-league football, but last season Wacker fought their way back into the Bundesliga. They are now coached by former FK Austria boss Karl Daxbacher, with ex-Rapid striker Florian Schwarz acting as assistant manager.

Rapid coach Goran Djuricin is expected to give his dynamic duo a rest on Sunday (kickoff at the Allianz Stadion is at 5pm). Striker Deni Alar was marked out of the game last night but will be of great importance in Bucharest next week. Christoph Knasmüllner however once more took the starring role. The former Admira midfielder – who was the driving force behind Rapid’s 4-0 against Slovan Bratislava last week – scored the opener yesterday after having missed a penalty against LASK.

While Alar, 28, and Knasmüllner, 26, will probably warm the bench against Wacker Innsbruck, 21-yeard-old Andrei Ivan and Jeremy Guillemenot, 20, might be part of the starting line-up.

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Bucharest barrier for Hütteldorf hopefuls

Rapid supporters have been feeling demoralised and delighted in turns recently as their team failed to show any consistency.

The Vienna-Hütteldorf side showed fierce, raging determination in their smashing 4-0 against Slovan Bratislava on Thursday, a victory which sent them into the next stage of the Europa League qualification procedure.

But just three days later, the champions of 2005 and 2008 suffered a bitter 1-2 defeat against LASK. Christoph Knasmüllner, who has developed into manager Goran Djuricin’s jack of all trades, hit the bar and missed a penalty against the Linz side who were eliminated from the Europa League qualifiers by Besiktas.

Knasmüllner knew no mercy with Slovan in a match which was his best performance for Rapid to date. Now all eyes will be on the former Admira ace again as Rapid face Steaua Bucharest.

The tradition-rich Romanian club celebrated a 2-0 win against Sepsi in domestic competition at the weekend. The first leg of the decisive Europa League qualification tie between Rapid and Steaua is set to take place at Vienna’s Allianz Stadion on Thursday (8.30pm).

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Booked

Given the landslide of books about football’s most-loved clubs and players, it was about time for a good book on refereeing. In “ICH PFEIFE! Aus dem Leben eines Amateurschiedsrichters”, Christoph Schröder recounts sitting – and passing – the refereeing test at the age of 14. The freelance author also reveals how he actually ended up there at such a young age – and why he is still refereeing games on amateur level.

Schröder offers detail information on his training regime which ensures he covers up to nine kilometres in 90 minutes – which is a remarkable figure considering refs on professional level covering just one kilometre more on average. He writes about the most challenging but also delighting aspects of his passion, and reveals what strikes him as far as the role of the referee is concerned each time he watches matches from the old days on YouTube.

“ICH PFEIFE!” is packed with truly entertaining lower league anecdotes and hilarious stretches such as Schröder’s tribute to the fried sausage (“the most underrated dish in the world”).

Considering the high possibility that the average crowd at a lower league soccer ground still holds a grudge against you after wrecking all their fun by awarding a penalty to the opposite team, we should all rethink our perception of referees. Paid modestly and confronted with rowdy crowds who expect them to be infallible by nature – and deciding in favour of their team at the same time, of course – refereeing is arguably a pretty tough job.

ICH PFEIFE! Aus dem Leben eines Amateurschiedsrichters
By Christoph Schröder
Published by Tropen (www.tropen.de)

Rapid face confident WAC after Altach blow

Hopes were high at Hütteldorf after a smashing 3-0 away victory against Admira. However that optimism has since been downgraded significantly. Rapid took the lead against Altach on Saturday and controlled a rather uneventful game. But Hannes Aigner, the Vorarlberg side’s experienced striker seized the opportunity after coming on in the 77th minute. Aigner, 37, equalised with a mere two minutes remaining.

Rapid manager Goran Djuricin is expected to rest a few key players such as Andrei Ivan in Sunday’s Bundesliga clash with Wolfsberger AC (5pm). Rapid – who slug it out with Slovan Bratislava in tonight’s Europa League qualifier – have a number of different options concerning their starting line-up despite the long-term injuries of Ivan Mocinic and Andrija Pavlovic. Winger Veton Berisha could add some venomous determination while Philipp Malicsek is ready to replace Ivan Ljubicic.

The budget and capabilities of Rapid’s antagonists, Wolfsberger AC, might be limited but the Carinthian team must not be underestimated after vanquishing FK Austria on Sunday. Captain Michael Sollbauer’s header sparked wild celebrations at the Lavanttal Arena, and the team of ex-Hartberg boss Christian Ilzer are hoping to punish any careless attitude at the Allianz Stadion this Sunday.

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Gazpromenade

How does it feel to live in a city erected solely for gas field workers and their families? A team of authors wanted to find out – and finally could after receiving their permissions to travel there.

Nowy Urengoi was built in the 1970s when thousands of Gazprom employees needed accommodation. Their firm had just started exploiting a massive gas field at the polar circle. The thermometer read minus 45 degrees when Christina Simmel, Sophie Panzer and Suzanne Bontemps travelled there.

Their trilingual (German, Russian, English) book “Gazprom City” offers unique insight on workers’ lives beyond the intensifying political confrontation between Russia, the United States and Europe.

Wladimir Tamplon, who has moved to Dortmund in the meantime, speaks about the beginnings and reveals his feelings looking back. Tamplon was one of the first workers who settled at Nowy Urengoi at the age of 31 in 1977.

The book’s brilliant photographs show anything but a gleaming hive of activity but deserted, snowy roads and dreary housing estates.

Gazprom City
By Sophie Panzer & Christina Simmel
Published by Schlebrügge.Editor (www.schlebruegge.com)

Rapid line up for Altach attack

Rapid and Altach do not appear to be at eye level but the home side must not underestimate their opponents from Vorarlberg.

The Green-Whites’ new signings Andrei Ivan and Christoph Knasmüllner proved on Sunday – when Rapid beat Admira 3-0 (pictured) after having suffered bitter defeats against the Lower Austrian team in the previous season – that they could become defining figures of the squad. But coach Goran Djuricin – who accused his side of relaxing in the glow of their superiority in the second half of the Admira fixture – is convinced some of his players can do better than that.

Altach suffered a demoralising 2-3 defeat against Mattersburg on Saturday. Fans were bitterly disappointed as their team scored 22 times in four home matches against Mattersburg in the 2017/2018 Bundesliga season.

The Vorarlberg side – who face Rapid at Vienna’s Allianz Stadion at 5pm tomorrow – will try to make life uncomfortable for Rapid’s crafty midfield string-pullers Knasmüllner, Ivan and Thomas Murg. Jeremy Guillemenot, who recently joined the Europa League hopefuls from FC Barcelona, is unlikely to feature the starting eleven, in contrast to Rapid’s new defenders Mateo Barac and Marvin Potzmann, who both performed astonishingly solid last Sunday.

If the league was based on budgets, Altach would be enforced to fight against getting relegated each season. But the small club from western Austria have proved many times that they can be an incredibly hard team to break down. Asked for their goals this season, Altach skipper Philipp Netzer warned from exaggerated expectations. “We must not establish long-term plans such as a final ranking. I think we should only focus on the upcoming match.”

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