it was a game that was close for long until everything that could go wrong did go wrong. we were left nursing a bruising 1-3 defeat to a clinical graz side.
Our youngest XI of the Austrian Bundesliga season so far (average age 22.27 years old) took a while to get into their usual game. The opening 20 minutes were cagey with the visitors having a slight upper hand without being able to threaten apart from a Friesenbichler shot from a tight angle into the outside of the post (5') and a Nemeth header (14'). Our new look back-four were looking solid and allowed our more forward players to get more and more into the game.
From now on it was Jesse Marsch's side who set the tone, carving clear dominance with around two-thirds of the possession and the better of the chances. Albert Vallci went closest to giving us the lead with a long-range effort that rattled the post (35') before Mergim Berisha turned it in on the rebound, but his effort was disallowed for offside. Noah Okafor (8', 16') and Karim Adeyemi (26') had also created danger. Graz had another dangerous moment before the break but Rasmus Kristensen threw himself into a shot from Kuen on the break to block it. It therefore remained 0-0 at half-time.
While the first half was solid enough, out team were completely blown away by the visitors at the start of the second half. Ljubic caught us off-guard in the 49th minute and smashed a volley in from close range to put the visitors 1-0 up. From that stage on, everything fell into place for Sturm, and nothing went right for us. We left too many spaces at the back and it was Jantscher who pounced from a Hierländer cross to make it 2-0 (54'), before he made it 3-0 with a near carbon copy of the goal, but with Ingolitsch setting him up this time (59'). It was a knockout blow within the space of ten minutes, although our side did not give up.
We tried to battle back. Having chances for us were Rasmus Kristensen (66'), Max Wöber with a header (66') plus Sekou Koita and Andreas Ulmer with a pair of opportunities (67'). We weren't able to claw back any ground until Mergim Berisha slotted a stunning shot into the top corner in the final stages to make it 1-3 (86'). It was too little, too late, however.
I'm disappointed today. Well done to Sturm Graz. They showed greater willpower today and won more challenges. We can't want it less than our opponents. Hopefully we can learn from that today. I hope to see a reaction.
That wasn't enough today. The coach said at half-time that we were losing too many challenges. We went out aiming to do better and yet it all blew up in the first five minutes. We need to be doing better than that. It hurts to see Graz celebrating. We weren't ourselves today. The way Sturm played is the way we wanted to play.
Ulmer for Vallci (56'), Koita for Adeyemi (56'), Camara for Okafor (56'), Wöber for Ramalho (61'), Sucic for Mwepu (72')
Camara (65' unsporting behaviour)
not available for action
Bernede (shin), Daka (thigh), Junuzovic (thigh) and Masaya Okugawa (adductors)