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.
#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.
#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!
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.
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.