Club Brugge KV recovered from conceding a first-minute goal to defeat SK Rapid Wien and guarantee themselves at least a third-place finish in UEFA Champions League Group A.
Rapid enjoyed plenty of pressure after Marek Kincl's opener, but Jan Ceulemans's side bounced back with goals from Javier Portillo and Boško Balaban. Captain Gert Verheyen's 65th-minute strike appeared to seal the points for the hosts, before Steffen Hofmann's 81st-minute header ensured a nervous finale.
After a scoreless draw with SV Mattersburg last weekend, Rapid coach Josef Hickersberger was determined to increase his team's goal threat for this must-win tie. To that end he recalled Kincl and Belgian forward Axel Lawaree while Matthias Dollinger came in on the left of midfield.
The changes paid off as two of the replacements combined for the opening goal after just 33 seconds. Latching on to a ball played inside Club Brugge right-back Günther Vanaudenaerde, Dollinger clipped over a perfect first-time cross which was met by a forceful diving header from Kincl for Rapid's first goal in the group.
But Club Brugge, who had defender Marek Špilár back after suspension, wasted no time in finding a ninth-minute equaliser which owed to the wet conditions. Rapid goalkeeper Raimund Hedl spilled Balaban's volley from a corner in the goalmouth mud, and Portillo slid the ball home from close range, narrowly beating Verheyen to the final touch.
The visitors continued to create chances, however. Vanaudenaerde cleared a Peter Hlinka effort off the line, home goalkeeper Tomislav Butina made a fine stop from Hofmann's set-piece and Andreas Dober dragged an attempt wide of the target.
For all Rapid's pressure, it was Club Brugge who went ahead after 25 minutes. Balaban fired a 30-metre free-kick through the wall and there was sufficient curl on the ball to take it inside Hedl's left upright. Rapid attempted to equalise before the break, but Kincl's low drive was well saved by Butina.
At the start of the second period Hedl had to be alert to clear an under-hit Radek Bejbl back-pass with Portillo bearing down on goal. The Spaniard could have scored a second but miscued a far-post header from Jonathan Blondel's inviting left-wing cross. Moments later he was judged offside racing on to Verheyen's ball over the top, then Balaban shot wide as Club Brugge set up camp in the Rapid half.
Verheyen on target
They got their reward in the 63rd minute when Verheyen made it 3-1. Balaban, putting in an eye-catching performance, burst from the halfway line past the challenges of Martin Hiden and Bejbl before coolly sliding a pass to the unmarked Verheyen. The 35-year-old showed equal composure, delaying his strike before lifting the ball over a diving Hedl.
Rapid were determined not to go down without a fight, though. Hofmann, not for the first time, forced Butina into a fine stop with a stinging free-kick, then gave his team renewed hope by reducing the deficit on 81 minutes. He beat Vanaudenaerde in the air and planted a magnificent header into the corner.
Nonetheless, Club Brugge held on to move within three points of Juventus and FC Bayern München at the top of the group, although their primary objective of a place in the UEFA Cup has been achieved.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.