Rapid Wien overturned a 1-2 defeat from their first leg Europa League qualifier to win 3-0 against Greek side PAOK Saloniki.
Security concerns after crowd trouble during the match in Greece meant that the Hütteldorf side could only sell 16,000 tickets as the club ceded the whole eastern stand to a few hundred Saloniki supporters guarded heavily by riot police.
Rapid coach Peter Schöttel fielded an offensive 4-2-3-1 formation with Terence Boyd as a target man and captain Steffen Hofmann in the hole flanked by Guido Burgstaller and Deni Alar.
During the first 20 minutes the guests were visibly impressed by the ferocious atmosphere the Rapid faithful created, completely drowning out the Saloniki supporters who had made themselves heard with chants before kickoff. Rapid pressed and showed determination, stealing several balls in midfield and breaking up any attacks well.
However, the Grün-Weißen failed to create any clear chanced and it was Greek midfielder Stefanos Athanasiadis who almost broke the deadlock after a corner in the 30th minute; Terence Boyd managed to clear the ball on the goalline with a last ditch header.
Rapid’s riposte came immediately: goalkeeper Lukas Königshofer played the ball wide to the left flank and found Burgstaller who managed to cross after a nice flick and found the head of Deni Alar who was given way too much room by the Greek defence. The young striker scored with a technically difficult to take header and send the crowd roaring.
Not much happened then before the break as Rapid took the foot off the pedal but once the game restarted, the Hütteldorf side went immediately for a second.
Alars free kick from the right flank was converted by Terence Boyd after
48 minutes with an free header from seven yards out.
Saloniki did not manage to put Rapid under pressure as the Greek players grew clearly more and more tired by the minute. But also the home team seemed to struggle with concentration and stamina as the game went one, resulting in several lapses on both sides that gifted the other team with good opporunities. Neither managed to capitalise on this, however.
Rapid particularly struggled in mounting serious counterattacks in the second half and put the game under wraps as in coach Peter Schöttels’s
4-2-3-1 formation there was a too big gap between the six defenders and the four attackers.
In the 93rd minute Saloniki keeper Panagiotis Glykos joined his teammates up front for a corner as a goal would have taken the game to extra time. The ball was cleared though and found Steffen Hofmann near der half way line who took a few steps to control the ball and then coolly roll it into the net as Glykos had no chance of getting back in time.
The stadium now erupted with joy as Rapid deservedly reached the group stage of the Europa league and the supporters celebrated with the players long after the final whistle was blown. All fears of crowd trouble were left unfounded as the Rapid fans were on their very best behaviour and police presence intimidated any potential Greek troublemakers.