Ljubicic made a perfect counterattack to the only goal in the game in the 29th minute and not only gave Rapid their second win in the group phase after the 2-1 at home against Dinamo Zagreb, but also a perfect European Cup debut for coach Ferdinand Feldhofer. With six points, the Viennese caught the Belgians, who had won 1-0 in Vienna and hold on to five points, and are now moving to the play-off of the new Conference League. For Rapid it was also the first victory in Belgium since 1989 in front of 10,000 spectators. Back then, Club Brugge was defeated 2-1 away in the second round of the UEFA Cup.
The draw for the duels with the runners-up in the group phase of the most recent European competition will take place on Monday. Possible opponents of the Hütteldorfer include Partizan Belgrade, Maccabi Tel Aviv or PAOK Saloniki with ex-captain Stefan Schwab. Other possible opponents are Bodö / Glimt, Randers FC, Slavia Prague and Karbach Agdam. Only the runner-up in Group G has not yet been determined after the Tottenham – Rennes game was canceled. The play-off will then be played on February 17th and 24th. The winners advance to the last sixteen, in which LASK is already in thanks to their group victory.
With the promotion, Rapid also ensured that, together with Salzburg in the Champions League and the Linzers in the Conference League, for the first time since the 1983/84 season, three Austrian clubs are still represented in the European Cup in the spring. Almost 40 years ago, in addition to Rapid, Austria and Sturm Graz were still involved after the turn of the year.
Strong first half
Rapid laid the foundation for victory in the first half. The guests started strong, repeatedly pushed Genk on the defensive and also recorded the first chances. Goalie Maarten Vandevoordt had a lot of trouble with shots from Marco Grüll (16th) and Ercan Kara (18th). The only dangerous action by the home side before the break resulted from an unsuccessful tee shot by goalkeeper Paul Gartler, the subsequent shot by Kristian Thorstvedt was blocked by Emanuel Aiwu (29th).
After the subsequent counterattack, Rapid launched a counterattack, Thorsten Schick played for Ljubicic, and the midfielder surprised Vandevoordt with a solid shot into the near corner. Rapid stayed on the trigger, Kara, who was knocked out a little later, checked Vandevoordt in the 36th minute. Kara’s strike colleague Taxiarchis Fountas also had to pass before the start of the game.
Rapid withstands pressure
During the break, coach Bernd Storck made a triple change at his premiere at the Genk Bank. Among other things, there was the two-meter-tall striker Paul Onuachu, who immediately ensured a good deal of activity in the Rapid penalty area, for example in the 51st minute, when Gartler was on the post when the Nigerian tried. Four minutes later, the Rapid Keeper prevented the equalizer with a foot defense against Thorstvedt.
The Austrian runner-up came under increasing pressure, survived many standard situations as well as a narrow miss by Luca Oyen (79th) and a risky dribble by Gartler against Theo Bongonda (80th). Rapid also brought the six-minute stoppage time with a lot of tremors, but unscathed.
Voices for the game:
Ferdinand Feldhofer (Trainer Rapid): “The final whistle was an extreme relief, a wonderful moment. I’m happy for the club, the players and the fans. Today the players fought unbelievably, which is also what distinguishes Rapid. You can be proud of the first half. It was clear that we wouldn’t be in the opposing third for more than 90 minutes. We also looked for phases in which we can relax. The first half was excellent, the pressure came in the second half, but the boys deserved the win. “
Robert Ljubicic (Goalscorer to make it 1-0): “It’s unbelievable that the ball goes in so nicely. I knew I was slower than my opponent, so I shot straight away. I’m happy that I was able to help the team. We were fully motivated, and every player showed that. The coach told us to enjoy these moments. Now we’re looking forward to the next play-off games. “
Martin Moormann (Rapid defender): “It was really cool. An unbelievable feeling that we are further. The whole team is really happy. We stood well at the back and didn’t leave too much. That’s why we deserve to leave the field as winners. Everyone gave everything, you noticed that everyone wanted to get ahead. “
UEFA Europa League, Group H, sixth matchday
KRC Genk – Rapid 0: 1 (0: 1)
Cegeka Arena, 10.000, SR Martins (POR)
Tor: Ljubicic (29.)
Genk: Vandevoordt – Preciado (78./Oyen), McKenzie, Sadick (46./Lucumi), Arteaga (69./Jukleröd) – Thorstvedt, Bongonda, Hrosovsky, Ito (46./Cuesta) – Ugbo (46./Onuachu), Paintsil
Rapid: Gartler – Stojkovic, Aiwu, Moormann, Ullmann (89./Dijakovic) – Petrovic, Ljubicic (75./Grahovac) – Schick, Knasmüllner (46./Kitagawa), Grüll (75./Auer) – Kara (40./Strunz )
Yellow cards: Onuachu, Cuesta or Moormann, Ullmann, Strunz, Stojkovic, Gartler
The best: Onuachu, Oyen, Bongonda or Ljubicic, Stojkovic
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Europa League: Rapid extends European Cup trip