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Sturm Graz won the fourth championship title in club history

Sturm Graz won the fourth championship title in club history
Gregory Wüthrich scored 1-0 in the 69th minute.

Sturm Graz has ended Salzburg’s ten-year dominance and been crowned football champions for the first time since 2011. The Graz team won 2-0 (0-0) in the last and decisive round at home against Austria Klagenfurt on Sunday and brought their lead of two points over their pursuers across the finish line. A clear 7:1 (3:1) against LASK was not enough for Salzburg. The “Red Bulls” have been champions in the Austrian upper house without interruption since 2014.

  • More about the Bundesliga: LASK got under the wheels in Salzburg

The now four-time champion Sturm also secured the double after winning the ÖFB Cup, but Salzburg ended the season without a title. In the third game of the championship group, Hartberg won 3-0 (1-0) at Rapid. The Viennese were already fourth in the final table behind third-placed LASK. In fifth place, Hartberg booked the ticket for the European Cup play-off, in which the last international starting place is against WAC or Vienna Austria.

Dramatic decision

In a heart-stopping finale on Sunday, the Styrians deservedly won 2-0 (0-0) in the last round against Austria Klagenfurt and thus dethroned series champions Salzburg after ten titles in a row. For the Graz team, who are celebrating the double after winning the cup for the first time in 25 years and for the second time overall, it was the fourth championship title in the club’s history.

In a game of patience full of storm chances, central defender Gregory Wüthrich redeemed the 15,325 fans in Graz-Liebenau in the 69th minute with a header from a corner. Shortly before the end, “Joker” Amady Camara (90th) secured the three points. The team of successful coach Christian Ilzer secured their first championship title in 13 years with a lead of two points and thus a lucrative fixed place in the Champions League. A 7-1 win against LASK wasn’t enough for Salzburg.

David Affengruber had to watch the thrilling title fight from the stands due to muscular problems in his hip flexors; Dimitri Lavalée started for him in central defense. Ilzer compensated for the yellow card suspension of midfield director Otar Kiteishvili with a concentrated attack, Mika Biereth and Seedy Jatta stormed in the 4-1-2-1-2 system, William Böving acted in the midfield diamond. An hour before the start of the game, the fans in the arena, which had been sold out for weeks, were frenetically cheering on the Sturm team. “Get the double and become legends,” demanded the “Blackies” supporters, which now number 15,000 club members.

Long wait for redeeming hits

It took five minutes for the Ilzer team to become dangerous for the first time. After a long corner, Jusuf Gazibegovic fired a volley straight at the goal from 18 meters, which Klagenfurt goalkeeper Phillip Menzel parried. While Salzburg quickly opened the scoring with two goals in the long-distance duel, the Graz team kept getting into the danger zone with their fast-paced football. Shots from David Schnegg (16th) and Tomi Horvat (20th) were blocked or went over.

On the other side, storm goalie Vitezslav Jaros had no problems with a roller from Sebastian Soto (23rd). A direct free kick from Jonas Arweiler (28th) from around 18 meters flew over the goal. The Carinthians, who had to make do without the suspended Andy Irving, got better and better into the game and relied on quick switching play. The Pacult team made life difficult for the cup winners, and a game of patience developed for the Graz team, who were often too imprecise in the final third.

In the 37th minute, the unlucky Jatta had to leave the field due to injury. Shortly afterwards, Arweiler volleyed over the bar from a good position (39th). Graz’s second big chance fell to Biereth, who made space for himself after a long throw-in, but then missed completely (42nd). Exactly 22 seconds after the restart, Alexander Prass put an attempt from the edge of the penalty area just wide of the left post.

With the knowledge that they had to score a goal and cheered loudly by the fans, the hosts pressed for salvation. In the 48th minute it was almost time, but Horvat couldn’t get a pass from Stangl into the goal, and a few seconds later Böving failed when he was free-standing at the foot of the brilliantly reacting Menzel. A Biereth header (60th) after a corner missed the target, as did a Horvat long-range shot (62nd).

In the 69th minute there was ecstasy in the stadium. Wüthrich rose high at a Horvat corner and headed the ball unstoppable for Menzel to take the lead. A large number of Sturm fans watched the final phase standing and saw how the Pacult team tried to equalize. And it got close again after a header from “Joker” Jaritz hit the bar (84th) and a Besuschkow shot missed the goal (89th). Shortly afterwards, Camara remained ice cold on a counterattack and thus secured the championship title.

Reactions

Gregory Wuthrich (Sturm Graz) in a Sky interview: “To all Sturm fans, this title is for you. I love you all. I didn’t have an easy career, I always had setbacks. I had to swallow a lot. This is a reward for everything, I worked so hard for everything.”

Jon Gorenc Stankovic (Sturm Graz): “I can’t believe it, it was an unbelievable season, an unbelievable game, just awesome. It was a difficult game, Klagenfurt gave everything to get a win here. But not here today. That Double means everything to me. Me and a few guys worked for it for many years.”

Jusuf Gazibegovic (Sturm Graz): “I can’t contain my emotions. It was one of my biggest dreams with the club that I have learned to love so much over the last four years. Where I felt comfortable from day one, now something so big to achieve is unbelievable. I’m the happiest person in the world. We knew it wouldn’t be easy because Klagenfurt is also a good team. Of course we knew how it stands. But that showed the morale of this team, how we won the game, how we fought.”

SK Sturm Graz – SK Austria Klagenfurt 2:0 (0:0).

Graz, Merkur Arena, 15,325 spectators SR Lechner

Gates:
1:0 (69th) Wüthrich
2:0 (90th) Camara

Attack: Jaros – Gazibegovic (75. Johnston), Wüthrich, Lavalée, Schnegg – Gorenc Stankovic – Böving (75. Camara), Prass – Horvat (86. Hierländer) – Biereth (86. Wlodarczyk), Jatta (37. Geyrhofer)

Klagenfurt: Menzel – Wernitznig (72nd Straudi), Mahrer, Wimmer, Schumacher – Besuschkow, Benatelli, Cvetko (82nd Robatsch) – Karweina (68th Jaritz) – Soto (72nd Maglica), Arweiler

Yellow cards: Lavalée or Mahrer

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