We made a successful start to the champions group thanks to a concentrated style of play and a goalscorer in sensational form. The 3-1 win against Sturm Graz was never really in doubt.
Patson daka, record hunter
Our boys smashed their way in front at the Red Bull Arena as if they were making up for the break in the season for international action. Sturm Graz coach Christian Ilzer admitted after the clash that: "It felt like we were still on the motorway." We gave the visitors no chance to settle in at all, with Daka dishing out a demolition job in the opening minutes! The Zambian smashed the fastest hat-trick in Austrian Bundesliga history to put us well on top after ten minutes, and equalled a club record in the process. After Marc Janko and Jonatan Soriano, he became the third man to score goals in seven league matches in a row for us. You could almost overlook the fact that he averages a whopping 1.2 goals per match over the course of the season, with 23 strikes from 19 games. No player to have made at least ten appearances in Austria has ever boasted a better goals-to-games ratio over a season.
Coach Jesse Marsch was happy to note that for the first time in his spell at the club, he selected the same starting XI in two consecutive league matches. He has led the team to 10 wins in 11 matches in the new year, with 18 wins in 23 games so far this season a proud tally. Only in 2018/19 did we ever win as many at this stage, and we have never won more! The victory completes our revenge against Sturm. After defeat in our first two meetings in 2020/21, we have settled the score in the cup semi-final and now in the league.
Into sixth gear
One reason for concern might be that Graz were well in the game after the opening 15 minutes, and were an even match for us in the second half. With close to 58 percent of challenges won, a slight advantage in possession (52%) and an even number of shots (eight for each team), the visitors showed just how much progress they have made since their disappointing Champions Group campaign last season.
With Rapid Vienna breezing to an impressive 8-1 win against WAC, everything is set up for a massive clash at the table summit on Sunday. We will be eager to start in the fast lane again - and stay there.