The World of Red Bull Soccer - March 23

FC Red Bull Salzburg
RB Salzburg played host to lead-leading FK Austria Wien (tied with SK Sturm Graz) a mere three points behind, ending a tightly contested match of superb play in a draw, 1-1.  Salzburg led at the half on an eighth-minute header by defender Milan Dudic on a corner after clearly outplaying its opponents, but even after coming out strong to start the second half Austria Wien managed an unexpected equalizer, blasting a shot from outside the box on a simple through ball.  Chances were aplenty before and after each goal, but none could break the deadlock, leaving each side with a mildly disappointing but essential single point.

Going up against FK Austria Wien at home, Red Bull Salzburg had a chance to move into a tie for the league lead.  Although they did not blunder the opportunity, they only managed a draw and remain in third place while the rest of the field crept closer to their position.  Their inspired play led many to consider the Red Bulls a legitimate title contender at this point, however, and down only three points from first and two out of second, the table could be shaken up with just one match.

The Red Bulls (11-5-10) will enjoy a week off as the Austrian Bundesliga joins the rest of the world in taking a respite while international soccer takes center stage.  Their next match will take place on April 3, at last-place LASK Linz; RB Salzburg will be expecting nothing less than a resounding victory and the three points that come with it, and will enjoy the same matchup just six days later at home.  Six points will be essential over the two matches as the Red Bulls eye a matchup with second-place SK Sturm Graz on April 16.

Red Bull Brasil
A draw with fourth-place Guarani left a bitter taste in fans’ mouths after the prospect of three points evaporated as a 3-1 lead was overcome in a brilliant second half that all but decided the fate of those hopeful for second round qualification in the A-2 Series of the Paulista League. 

Goals were imminent from the start, as several close opportunities presented themselves in the early going before Alex Rafael tallied the opener in the 32nd minute, courtesy of Eduardo Nunes, who scored himself to add to his impressive recent count in the 43rd minute as Rafael returned the favor to again take the lead after Guarani had leveled the score.

The torrid pace kept up in the second half and just three minutes in Nunes and Rafael paired to hand Anderson Ataide his first Red Bulls goal.  The same was true for Guarani, however, and the opponents answered just two minutes later amid some confusion and drew even in the 65th minute on a rebound.  The Red Bulls fought hard to regain the lead but Guarani goalkeeper Emerson would not allow it, preserving the draw for his team to retain its commanding hold on fourth place.

The draw kept RB Brasil winless in its past two and most important matches after a six-match unbeaten streak to storm the qualification field and leaves the Red Bulls with little hope of earning the fourth qualification berth.  With only two matches remaining in league play, everything has to break RB Brasil’s way from here for the club to qualify; Guarani must lose both its matches while the Red Bull must win theirs, and PAEC cannot win both of its matches.  

Qualification is not impossible, however, as the Red Bulls (6-6-4) take on seventh-place Palmeiras B on Wednesday, March 23 and eighth-place São Bento on March 27, each quite possible three-point matches for the Red Bulls.  Guarani meanwhile must face leading São José but does get to play ninth-place União Barbarense, a match on which everything could depend.

RB Leipzig
A win over FC Oberneuland extended RB Leipzig’s unbeaten run to five matches, as the Red Bulls gutted their opponents with a 3-0 decision.   Daniel Frahn, Thiago Rockenbach da Silva and Lars Müller scored the goals, with da Silva’s being his first and Müller’s coming from the penalty spot. 

Frahn opened the scoring in the 10th minute running onto a ball from Müller and the margin held until his teammates struck in the second half and the Red Bulls coasted to victory after a hard-fought first half.

The win keeps RB Leipzig on pace with VfL Lübek and VfL Wolfsburg II, which both won last week and remain tied for second place, well behind first-place Chemnitzer FC.  The Red Bulls sit three points out of second and two clear of fifth, after which there is a significant dropoff to an eight-team mid-table scrum, although the Red Bulls have played one more match than both second-place clubs.
   
The Red Bulls (13-4-8) will have a shot at jumping up the table as they will face both second place squads in their next two games, first as hosts to VfB Lübek on April 3 after the international break, with a matchup at VfL Wolfsburg II looming on April 10.

Red Bull Ghana
The Red Bulls followed an impressive draw against King Solomon with a back-breaking away loss to Purejoy, 2-1, knocking them down to sixth place on goal difference (three above Zaytuna).

 The club’s offense has been on par with the rest of the league, but it’s defense is second-worst and digs the Red Bulls (2-4-3) lower in the table, five points out of the top half with only five matches remaining.