In the second and final fixture of their trip to the Andalusian province of Málaga, Red Bull Salzburg faced a Viktoria Plzeň side who currently sit atop the HETA Liga with a 14 point cushion separating them and their closest competitor Slavia Praha. Losing their first game to Swiss outfit Young Boys, Marco Rose made multiple changes to his starting eleven, bringing in Dembélé, Ulmer, Leitgeb, Yabo and Gulbrandsen for Lainer, Farkas, Samassékou, Mwepu and Munas Dabbur.
In the early stages, the tempo of the game was slow as both sides circulated possession between their back line, looking to feel out the opposition, and wait for them to come onto the main on the ball before moving onto the next phase. It wouldn’t be until the 9th minute that something happened. After Mahamadou Dembélé had done well to latch onto an over hit pass from Yabo, the Frenchman’s cross was deflected out for the first corner of the game. The resulting set-piece failed to threaten.
It took 14 minutes for the first shot of the game to take place. Down the other end, André Ramalho had comfortably headed clear a Plzeň cross, Minamino received the ball within his own half and drove into the oppositions, then into their defensive third. Off the back of a one-two with Romano Schmid, the Japanese international thought he had an opportunity to open the scoring, but he was deemed offside. Plzeň would have a chance for themselves, but the shot was blocked before the ball had entered the area.
17-year-old Schmid had a huge influence on the game in the opening 20 minutes, playing the role of the protagonist in most of Salzburg’s attacks, and almost created a chance for Ulmer, but the full-back was dispossessed almost immediately after a one-two with the teenager. In the 24th minute, the millennial had his name on the scoresheet. An attempted cross-field pass from Hrošovský to Hubník was intercepted by Berisha, after the Kosavan had done well to remain on the blindside of the centre-back, passing the ball to Minamino in a central position, he would wait for the goalkeeper to approach him before moving it to Schmid, shifting the ball onto his left foot, the former Sturm Graz midfielder tucked the ball under the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
Salzburg continued to have the majority share of the possession, but were unable create more chances as multiple niggling fouls from their opponents would disrupt the flow of the game. This allowed Plzeň to close off the passing lanes and allow them to apply pressure to Ramalho and Onguéné in the defence. With half-an-hour on the clock, Plzeň were awarded a free-kick 25-yards from goal after Onguéné had brought down his man. Rather than having their first shot of game, they elected to chip the ball into the area, but the move broke down as the ball was cleared.
Less than 10 minutes later, Salzburg would have another half-chance. After a succession of passes between Yabo, Berisha and Schmid, the latter would attempt a half-volley with his weaker foot, but the ball went high and wide of the goal.
It would take 43 minutes for the four-time Czech champions to finally have their shot of the game. Jan Kopic cut inside from the right flank and attempted a left-footed shot from just inside the area, but the ball was dragged wide and didn’t force Walke to break a sweat.
A minute later, Die Roten Bullen were two goals ahead. Kozáčik’s clearance failed to breach the half-way line, falling into the direction of Yabo. With the goalkeeper yards from his goal, the German’s instinctive reaction was to attempt a first time volley, launching the ball upwards rather than forwards. Gulbrandsen does well to leap above his opponent, heading the ball down for Minamino. The 23-year-old ran at the defence, switching the ball to his left foot and firing a shot from outside the area, clipping the post on it’s way in.
It took more than 40 minutes to register their first shot of the game in the first-half, it took Plzeň less than 60 seconds in the second. With the ball bouncing around in the area like a pinball the Czech side managed to get a shot away, but the newly introduced Coronel was on his toes and did well to get down to his right to produce a one-handed save. Although the play was called back due to an offside call.
Salzburg secured their third goal of the game five minutes after the restart. Mwepu does well to recover the ball from behind after being beaten by his man. Lainer played the ball out in front of Zambian international, spotting the run of Hwang, Mwepu launches a ball forward. Asia’s Young Player of the Year slows down the play whilst he waits for Schlager to overlap before releasing the ball to him. Doing well to keep it on the pitch, Schlager squares the ball across the six-yard box for Dabbur to tap home goal number three.
Six minutes later, the Austrian side quadrupled their lead. Yet again, Mwepu dispossessed his opponent and moves the ball onto Hwang. The South Korean runs at the heart of the defence before spotting Dabbur in the half-space, the Israeli evades his marker with a single step-over, putting Diego Živulić on the floor. Having created time and space for himself, Dabbur cut the ball back for Hwang, giving him the opportunity to grab a well-deserved goal.
The game’s balance was very much teetering in Salzburg’s favour in the second-half. With Plzeň unable to contend with Salzburg high obtained pressing, their original game plan went out the window. Although, they were able to create the occasional opportunity for themselves, none of their attempts forced Coronel into getting his hands dirty.
Soon after Dabbur had attempted an over-head kick from an Enoch Mwepu cross, Marco Rose’s men made it a five star performance, as Amadou Haidara added his name onto the score sheet. Dropping deep to receive the ball, Hwang seeing the run from Haidara and threaded a well-weighted pass in between the centre-backs for the Malian to get onto. With time to take a touch and compose himself, he chipped the ball over the keeper.
In the 76th minute, Salzburg were awarded a free-kick wide of the area. 17-year-old Dominik Szoboszlai stepped up to take it, having come on six minutes prior, but his effort was hit straight into the wall. Rebounding to Schlager on the edge of the semi-circle, the midfielder looked to have a shot at goal, however his attempt rolled through a crowd and into the gracious hands of the man in between the sticks. Haidara also came close with an effort from a similar area, unleashing a well hit shot that was deflected out wide for a corner.
Szoboszlai would have another bite at the cherry as the game came to a close. Holding possession deep in his own half, Luca Meisl noticed the movement of Szoboszlai on the other side of the pitch and would produce one of his trademark passes to perfectly pick out the Hungarian, who took control of the ball and attempted to lift the ball over Kozáčik, but the ball bounced wide of the post.
The final whistle blew shortly after the final effort of the game. With the goalkeeper out of position, Haidara attempted his luck from within his own half, but his attempt span way wide of the goal.
This victory would see Salzburg end their tour of Spain on a high note, as they look to gain momentum for the remainder of the Ö. Bundesliga season.