Round 2

Top 3 Players of Round 2:

The second round of the Austrian Bundesliga once again did not fail to excite. Only four games were played this weekend as heavy rain caused  the postponement of the SC Rheindorf Altach-Admira Wacker game, which has now been re-arranged for August 13th. In the games that did go ahead there were 3 red cards, 2 penalties and 13 goals. Of the 13 goals,  9 of these were shared between Red Bull Salzburg and Wolfsberger AC alone. The Red Bulls produced a stunning second half display away against Wiener Neustadt, recording a 5-0 away victory, despite losing Sadio Mané after only 40 minutes to a second, but very harsh, bookable offence at only 1-0. However, given Salzburg’s recent record against Wiener Neustadt, a 5-0 scoreline was more or less expected. Prior to this game, in their last 5 head-to-head meetings, Salzburg had scored 29 goals, conceding only 3 in the process.
Wolfsberger’s incredible 4-0 scoreline against FK Austria Vienna was far less expected. Although it has become widely accepted that under Dietmar Kühbauer, Wolfsberger appear to be a much tougher proposition this season, seeing them beat the Bundesliga Champions from only two seasons ago by 4 goals, was still a shock to the system. The manager must take plaudits after results such as these, but it should be noted the squad is also in a much better shape following the astute acquisitions of Stephan Palla (SK Rapid Vienna), Tadej Trdina (SV Grödig) and Manuel Weber (SK Sturm Graz), amongst others.
Elsewhere, SK Rapid Vienna bounced back from their 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Salzburg with a win of their own over SV Ried. The Green and Whites, currently playing their home games at the Gerhard Hanappi Stadium, gained their first points of the season with a 1-0 victory. Not only was this a morale boosting win, but it also brought  a very welcome clean sheet in the process. In fairness to SV Ried, they operated well on the counter-attack, but never really looked like getting the elusive equaliser as the game came to a close. Instead, had it not been for a combination of Thomas Gebauer in the Ried net, the woodwork and some poor Louis Schaub finishing, the scoreline could have been rather one sided.
SV Grödig and SK Sturm Graz ended the weekend on a dramatic note on Sunday afternoon. Having named the same XI who played on Thursday against FK Čukarički in a 2-1 loss (5-2 victory on aggregate), Baur’s side could have been forgiven for tired legs in this game. Unfortunately, for the first 60 minutes of the game, this was apparently the case, with the home side creating very little and on the back foot for much of the game up until that point. In the opposite dugout, Sturm had gone through a torrid week that involved them losing rising-star Florian Kainz to Rapid Vienna, in a transfer that saw Sturm-Manager Gerhard Goldbrich publically stating Rapid Vienna had not followed proper procedures, only to later back track on these comments. Furthermore, Darko Milanič’s tenure as Manager has become increasingly uncertain with growing unrest within sets of Sturm fans. In a poll carried out by Sky Sports Austria, 307 people out of a 520 who voted, said that Milanič should be the first manager to be fired. The game did little to dispel those feelings as Grödig ran out eventual 2-1 victors, having trailed 1-0 with only ten minutes left to play. Ultimately, it appeared that Grödig, a team with great chemistry and a never say die attitude, wanted the points more than Sturm. Darko Milanič later claimed that individual mistakes cost his side the win, a comment that is unlikely to win over any of his players.

The season is definitely shaping up to be a great one, but now it’s time for the players (and on this occasion, team).

#1 The entire Wolfsberger AC team – In one aspect, this is cheating, but there was no way I could pick any individuals out of the Wolfsberger side who deserved it more than any of his team mates. The result came with a little help from referee, Mr Schörgenhofer, who gave FK Austria Vienna’s  Vanče Šikov his marching orders in the 6th minute of his debut, following a strike/push to Boris Hüttenbrenner’s face. It didn’t take long until Wolfsberger opened the scoring with Christopher Wernitznig smashing home a volley from the corner of the box to beat Heinz Lindner following a corner. For the majority of the first half from that point, Austria Vienna appeared to regain their composure. However, once centre-back  Nemanja Rnić’s got Wolfberger’s second goal, only three minutes into the second half, the game appeared beyond the Violets. When Mr Schörgenhofer incorrectly awarded the home side a 68th minute penalty after Joachim Standfest was legally challenged by Lindner, following a lightening quick break, the writing was on the wall. Step up Jacobo to the penalty spot, to get his first and very much deserved goal of the season.  The win was sealed with another breakaway as Brazilian substitute Silvio slid his shot past a despairing Lindner which capped a superb 4-0 victory. With 4 different scorers and only Jacobo getting an assist as well as a goal, I really think a group-effort entry is deserved.

Wolfsberger AC 2014/15

#2 Cican Stankovic – For the second week in a row Stankovic makes it into my top 3 players. Stankovic may have flown under the radar somewhat in the second half of last season but he has certainly laid down an early claim for Best Goalkeeper in the Bundesliga. After only two rounds of the league, of course it is far too early to say, but he has been outstanding for SV Grödig. The 21 year old pulled off two more memorable saves in his sides comeback victory against Sturm. In the context of the game his saves were absolutely huge. His first was a great reaction stop from a close range Lukas Spendlhofer  header following a Sturm free-kick, a save which despite being very good, we now expect to be saved given his quality.  The second save however, was undoubtedly world-class. Anel Hadzic met a corner at the back post, directing the ball into Stankovic’s right hand corner with his head. Stankovic however, launched himself to his right, and tipped the ball just past the post. Hadzic thought it was in, I thought it was in, and at 1-1, it was a pivotal moment in the game. It is safe to say I am fully looking forward to watch Stankovic continue to progress this season.

Cican Stankovic
#3 Kevin Kampl – The Slovenian sneaks into my top 3 here with another quality performance. The 23 year old, who turns 24 in October, ran the show for Salzburg in their 5-0 away win. Kampl started the game in the centre of midfield following the broken toe sustained by Stefan Ilsanker. With a poor pitch at Neustadt, flowing football was hard to pull off and although Kampl kept things ticking over in midfield, his final dribble or ball did not seem to work out in the first 45 minutes. Oh, how that changed in the second half. Sadio Mané’s petulant sending off for taking a freekick too early (he earned his first yellow card for dissent) turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Salzburg outfit. Cue Kevin Kampl on the left. The Slovenian destroyed the poor Reinhold Rantfl on the right hand side of the Wiener Neustadt defence. The winger time and time again cut in on his favoured left foot, causing havoc. Kampl made it 4-0 with his second goal of the season as he earned himself time to slide the ball past a helpless Thomas Vollnhofer, having fought off several defenders. Minutes prior to his goal, Kampl had waltzed past several defenders and laid the ball off to Christian Schwegler to lash a divine shot into the top corner, giving the home goalkeeper no chance.  In 2 games, he now has 2 goals, 2 assists, not too bad!

Kevin Kampl

Notable mention:

Jonathan Soriano – Soriano is a prime example of where I feel I should increase my list size to 4 or 5 (much like Andreas Ulmer in Round 1) in order to accomodate the players who had great weekends. The Spaniard as we have come to expect was instrumental in the Red Bull Salzburg’s win. Soriano assisted Sabitzer’s first league goal for Salzburg with a perfectly weighted pass and also slid in Kevin Kampl for his goal. The prolific striker also scored 2 goals of his own. The first of  his goals was the simplest of headers from a Andreas Ulmer cross only 90 seconds into the second half. The second goal, a penalty following a deliberate Remo Mally handball and subsequent red card. Next stop, Champions League Qualification.

Jonathan Soriano

Comments are welcome and please vote on the poll as I will be tallying up who won the most votes at the end of the season.

Round 1

Top 3 Players of Round 1:

The 1st round of the Austrian Bundesliga did not fail to disappoint. The 5 games produced 19 goals, 33 yellow cards and 2 penalties. Only SK Sturm Graz were unable to find the net in their 1-0 loss to newly promoted SC Rheindorf Altach. There were also wins for Red Bull Salzburg, SV Ried and Wolfsberger AC, while Austria Vienna and SV Grödig drew 1-1.
Off the pitch, 4 managers also made their Bundesliga debuts with their new sides. Adi Hütter marked his debut as Red Bull Salzburg’s new coach with a 6-1 demolition against last years 2nd placed SK Rapid Vienna, a result even predecessor Roger Schmidt would have been very impressed with. Schmidt’s Assistant at Salzburg, Oliver Glasner, made his league debut as SV Ried’s new manager. Glasner’s team also impressed as they beat SC Wiener Neustadt comfortably 3-1, having been pegged back to 1-1 after 66 minutes. Michael Baur, the new SV Grödig manager, made his European debut with the side in Belgrade on Thursday with a comprehensive 4-0 win in the 2nd Qualifying round of the Europa League. His side were unfortunate not to make it 3 wins within a week (including an Austrian Cup victory), but Ola Kamara’s 90th minute header put pay to that. In that same game, new FK Austria Vienna manager, Gerald Baumgartner, previously of Austrian Cup finalists Sankt Pölten made his Bundesliga debut with the side. Although the team showed promising signs in their 6-0 win over First Vienna in the 1st round of the Austrian Cup, they were below-par in this game and could have easily have come away with 0 points.

Right, onto the players.

#1 Kevin Kampl- Kampl had a second half to remember against SK Rapid Vienna where he scored and assisted one goal in a 6-1 victory. The Slovenian fully justified his rising stardom with a near-perfect performance that was capped with a solo effort in the 84th minute. His goal was trademark Kampl. New signing and substitute Peter Ankersen sprayed a diagonal ball to the left hand side which Kampl ran onto. With the following 7 touches (all with his right), he took it around the outside of the hapless Maximilian Hofmann (deputizing at right back) and stroked the ball into the top corner past Jan Novota from the left hand side of the box. His assist was just as good. He picked up the ball around the top right hand corner of the box, played a one-two with Soriano, then another one, controlled the ball with his next touch, before lofting a cross to the back post where Sadio Mané waited to score the simplest of goals to make it 3-0 at the time. Kampl was pulling the strings in the second half in particular, and it should be noted, it was his quick feet and close control that won the free kick that Jonathan Soriano converted to make it 5-0.

#2 Jonathan Soriano- Soriano continued where he left off last season. Soriano had played somewhat of a backseat role against SK Rapid Vienna, with Red Bull Salzburg playing the majority of their football trying to exploit the wings of the Vienna side. However, with two devastating acts of quality, he earned his place on this list. Unlike Wernitznig (see notable mentions), who also scored two, one of which was also a stunning strike, we have seen these kind of goals come from the Spaniard, so we know it is not just luck or a matter of chance, he is just that good. His first goal was a defence coach’s nightmare. His first touch was world-class as it completely took Stefan Hofmann out the game and earned himself those extra yards of space (which the Rapid defenders fail to close) and his shot had far too much pace and power for Jan Novota to have any chance of keeping it out. His second was trademark Soriano. With a central free kick on the edge of the ‘D’, Soriano stepped up and whipped the ball up and over the wall, leaving Novata heaped on the floor after a failed dive/flail for a shot he was never getting to. He is well on track for another top-scoring season.

#3 Cican Stankovic- Stankovic had an inspired game between the sticks for SV Grödig against FK Austria Vienna. The 21 year old showed his Austrian counterpart in the opposition goal, Heinz Lindner (24), that he will have tough competition in years to come to be the No.1 goalkeeper for the Austrian national side. The Violets for the most part of the game were disappointing and were kept relatively quiet by the Grödig side. However, there were two saves that Stankovic made that were not only important but were top quality. The first came from a diagonal ball by Alexander Grünwald which was met by an unmarked Daniel Royer with a diving header. Stankovic was able to stick out his left leg despite his bodyweight going the opposite way. The second save was an acrobatic save that Stankovic was able to tip over the bar. The shot, a fizzing effort from just outside the area by Alexander Gorgon, was slightly more central than he would have wanted it, but regardless, it was an important save that kept Grödig in the lead at the time. Sadly, Ola Kamara got the equalizer for the home side with a powerful header that Stankovic still managed to get a strong hand to, but it was one save too far. In total, the Vienna side had 8 shots on target, in a game that Stankovic played like a goalkeeper far beyond his years.

Notable mentions:

Andreas Ulmer– constant threat down the left against SK Rapid Vienna, providing the assist to Alan’s goal and scored himself from a tight angle.

Tadej Trdina– one of the legion of new signings at Wolfsberger, Trdina proved himself a nuisance all game against Admira’s defence. He got on the score sheet with a simple header following calamitous defending by the home side

Christopher Wernitznig– Wernitznig came on for Wolfsberger after 61 minutes and managed to take the game away from the home side with 2 goals. One of which was a wonder goal miles outside the box; the other, a calm finish into the corner inside the box.