FC Vaslui gave a scare to migthy Inter Milano, in a game the Romanians never expected or deserved to win!
Having to go through the preliminary rounds of both European competitions, most Romanian clubs face between two and four games before making a shameful exit. An entire campaign, they fight like crazy, bending rules and doing everything possible to finish as high as possible in the standings, but when they start playing in Europe, the following season they start complaining about the games that come every three days…
FC Vaslui is yet to win a league title, but is a club that managed to finish every season in a higher position than in the previous one. The lack of European exposure obviously affected their chances to avoid big names this autumn and, after Fenerbahce in the Champions League, things got worse in the Europa League. Inter came to Piatra Neamt and won 2-0 the first leg, a match that Marius Sumudica, Vaslui’s coach wanted to approach using the reserves. An idea that came back to life before last night’s second encounter and Sumudica rested even the excellent goalkeeper, Dani Coman, alongside a number of regular starters, handing debuts to several players against a team lead by the incredible Javier Zanetti, packed with stars, in spite of a 2 goal advantage from the first leg.
Vaslui lead 1-0 and 2-1, playing almost an hour with a one man advantage, but failed to deliver the biggest surprise of the play-off. The game ended with a draw that punished what I consider lack of respect towards the competition and the opposition, but, above all, an amateurish approach that I’ve initially linked with Sumudica. Listening to the team’s manager Daniel Stanciu and the club owner Adrian Porumboiu afterwards, I realized that the coach had their backing to field a weak team against Inter and give up the fight before it began. And all that because three days from now, the title contender FC Vaslui will play away versus newly promoted club, Viitorul Constanta… Pathetic!
Once the Champions League draw ends, three European clubs and the huge number of football they can surely put together will try to find out more about Cluj, the city of Romanian champions, CFR. Well, if foreigners have every right to think of this club whenever they hear the city’s name – given the recent success and European exposure –, Romanians know that, first of all, this is the home of Universitatea. A club with an impressive history that managed to keep a strong bond with the majority of local fans, in spite of mediocre performances in recent years – something that couldn’t even come close to what CFR achieved in the past decade.
Well, the patience and fidelity of the fans will be tested once again, as a period of torment started with the departure of club owner and major investor Florian Walter to Petrolul Ploiesti (alongside a dozen of the team’s best players from last season) will now reach its climax. The club’s new president, Ana Maria Prodan, who is none other than the wife of Steaua’s coach, Laurentiu Reghecampf – Romanian football, always surprising! -, made her move, after several threats of taking Universitatea away from its fans, unless financial support will come from the local authorities.
An official statement says that until the end of the current season, U will play its home games in Buzau, some 400 km away from Cluj. The team will abandon not only its home town, but also a brand new stadium, the impressive Cluj Arena (Elite category, 30.335 seats, re-built in 2011 and branded for Universitatea – this is the reason why CFR recently declined the chance to play there Champions League matches!), to move to a venue that offered shelter to other clubs in dark periods of their history: Steaua Bucuresti, Petrolul Ploiesti and Otelul Galati.
A terrible decision that will surely generate an answer from the club’s passionate fans. And I’m afraid it’s not going to be a nice one, as they’ve often produced when supporting the Red Caps…
After Claudiu Niculescu (Universitatea Cluj) and Bogdan Stelea (Astra Ploiesti), round six of the Romanian first division could bring massive changes. Marian Bondrea is the first victim, getting the sack from CS Severin, the team he managed to promote for the first time in Liga I. The team had collected only two points so far and will be coached by Liviu Ciobotariu, who will meet next weekend Ceahlaul Piatra Neamt, defeated yesterday by Viitorul Constanta, at home, a result that determined Costel Enache to ask the board to look for a replacement. “I want them to understand that I cannot control the situation anymore!”, said Enache, a similar statement to the one released by Ionut Popa. The experienced coach of newly-promoted CSMS Iasi had already made an attempt to leave his post before the start of the season and now had another talk with the board, asking to be released!
UPDATE: In spite of an official announcement on CS Turnu Severin’s website, Liviu Ciobotariu refused to take over the team and signed for CSMS Iasi, who released yesterday afternoon Ionut Popa!
And this is not all, as Dorinel Munteanu looks just as determined to leave former champions Otelul Galati. “It’s 99% sure I won’t be coaching this team anymore!”, said the man who holds the record of international caps for Romania, very upset at the financial struggle of a team that two years ago was playing in the Champions League group stage, but also at the struggle for power within the club. “I don’t even know who I’m supposed to talk to about this!”, said Munteanu, who won just one game this season…
So, one coach sacked, three others waving the white flag and waiting for a decision this week, which could have set a new record, considering that Ioan Ovidiu Sabau and Marius Sumudica weren’t feeling so comfortable either, before this round. But Rapid produced a miracle, coming back from 0-2 down to win 3-2 versus CFR Cluj, scoring 3 goals in 20 minutes while playing 10 vs. 11, and FC Vaslui also came back after a terrible 1st half and one goal down to win 3-1 versus Steaua, last night!
- FC Severin – Universitatea Cluj 1-1 (Abba 83 / V. Dinu 7)
- CFR Cluj – CSMS Iasi 2-2 (Cadu 20 pen, Hora 73 / Milea 69, Herghelegiu 71)
- Concordia Chiajna – Dinamo 0-0
- Gloria Bistrita – FC Vaslui 0-3 (Milanov 37, M. Niculae 48, Sburlea 90)
- Petrolul Ploiesti – Rapid 0-0
- Steaua – Ceahlaul Piatra Neamt 3-0 (Rusescu 11, 60, Adi Rocha 33)
- Viitorul Constanta – Gaz Metan Medias 0-1 (Astafei 87)
- Pandurii Targu Jiu – Otelul Galati 3-2 (Maxim 19 pen, Boutadjine 72, 92 / Iorga 62 pen, Inkango 90)
- FC Brasov – Astra Ploiesti 1-2 (Cr. Munteanu 3 pen / Gaman 26 pen, Fatai 37)
Four rounds gone in Romania and a lot of clubs keep on working on their rosters. A sign of ambition, but also of some average work done during the summer, considering that all the moves presented below could have been done in the same conditions even a couple of months ago.
Steaua, who decided to release the once highly rated Florin Costea, bought Lukasz Szukala, a 28 years old central defender, who comes for a reported fee of 0.5 million Euros. The player was requested by Laurentiu Reghecampf (he was the one who brought him to Romania from Germany’s lower leagues back in 2010) and comes after two full seasons for Gloria Bistrita and Universitatea Cluj and two full… matches played for Petrolul.
The deal was supposed to be more complex, as Steaua requested Adrian Cristea as well, admitting to a mistake signaled a while ago: Reghecampf needs a number 10 in his ideal tactical setup and it was a mistake to allow Mihai Radut to move on loan to Pandurii. Radut who now has 3 goals in 3 matches played under the excellent coach Petre Grigoras. But that’s another story…
Petrolul not only resisted the temptation to sell Cristea (helped by some pressure quickly applied by the ambitious fans!), but also used some of the money received for Szukala to sign Geraldo Alves. A 32 years old central defender who was released by… Steaua this summer after two very good seasons and 54 appearances for the red and blue outfit. Another mistake made by the club’s management, heavily influenced by the vocal owner Gigi Becali, as the young couple Chiriches-Gardos lacks consistency and good backup (what a surprise!).
Petrolul makes a very good signing, in spite of the player’s age, considering the wolves’ ambition to challenge at least for the European places this season, and tomorrow there will be a hot game versus Rapid, who had a two weeks break and went on a mini training camp to solve some internal issues. The Bucharest side also signed a striker, Marius Bilasco, who was never a top scorer (12 goals for Unirea Urziceni in the title winning season 2009/2010) and comes after a terrible period, poor decisions getting him to clubs like Tianjin Teda or Energie Cottbus, where he rarely played. Bilasco is the type of useful centre-forward though and should provide good competition for Blaze Ilijoski, who featured in 6 games since his transfer from FC Brasov, scoring just once.
Rapid missed out on two targets though, as Dacian Varga and Costin Curelea will move from Sportul Studentesc to FC Vaslui. On loan once again, as Vasile Siman, the club’s owner, has a habit of requesting huge transfer fees for his players. Varga is a left winger who can also feature on the right and has an interesting story, playing twice on loan for Kuban Krasnodar (and not bad at all, I might add), yet he always had to return to the club that relegated now to the second division. Curelea is also considered one of the good Romanian strikers, yet none of the top clubs managed to come up with a good enough offer for Siman in the past three years. He’s now 28 and for the first time moves away from Sportul Studentesc, where he scored 77 goals in 242 matches played in the first & second league…
- Astra Giurgiu – FC Severin 1-1 (Bukari 74 / Vancea 45)
- CSMS Iasi – Petrolul Ploiesti 2-2 (Straton 53, Patulea 93 / Hamza 41, Marinescu 88 pen.)
- Universitatea Cluj – Viitorul Constanta 2-1 (V. Dinu 1, Cleiton 78 / Dica 94)
- FC Vaslui – Pandurii Targu Jiu 0-0
- Gaz Metan Medias – Steaua 1-1 (Astafei 36 / Rusescu 79)
- Otelul Galati – CFR Cluj 1-2 (Inkango 37 / G. Muresan 7 pen., Ronny 53)
- Ceahlaul Piatra Neamt – Gloria Bistrita 2-0 (Golubovic 38 pen., Lukanovic 74)
- Concordia Chiajna – FC Brasov 2-1 (Ad. Popa 24, 35 / Hadnagy 52)
- Dinamo – Rapid – postponed
Victor Piturca selected 23 players for the midweek friendly versus Slovenia, 9 of them coming from abroad generally with problems at their clubs that could get a helping hand from this call-up. If Lazar, Papp, Rat and Stancu are enjoying a good status, Marica is on Schalke’s black list for some time, Lobont fights for a place on the bench, not between the sticks, Torje needs to impress on loan in La Liga, while Tamas has no idea if WBA’s change of manager will also change his fortune. Add to this the level of Liga I and the lack of outstanding performers over here and it could make some sense to think about players like Adrian Mutu or the retired Cristi Chivu.
Piturca explained that he’s still waiting for the two, but the striker needs to find himself a decent team and prove that he can reach a decent level of form, while Inter’s defender should come back on some recent statements that lead everyone to believe that he’s seriously considering a return to international football. If not all the fans/journos are excited about it – a view I personally don’t share -, Piturca certainly is, explaining that the current team needs someone to look up to and finally Chivu (and not Mutu!) is considered the sort of player and personality that fits the leader’s profile.
Here’s Romania’s squad for the friendly vs Slovenia:
Goalkeepers: Lobont (AS Rome), Ciprian Tatarusanu (Steaua), Silviu Lung Jr. (Astra)
Defenders: Papp (Chievo), Luchin, Grigore (Dinamo), Chiriches, Gardos, Latovlevici (Steaua), Tamas (WBA), Gaman (Astra), Rat (Shakhtar)
Midfielders: Torje (Granada), Roman (Rapid), Bourceanu, Tanase (Steaua), Lazar (PAOK), Cocis (FC Rostov)
Forwards: Niculae (FC Vaslui), Grozav (Petrolul), Marica (Schalke), Stancu (Orduspor)
The first experience as a coach ended badly for Bogdan Stelea, one of the members of Romania’s golden generation. The bald, strong ex-goalkeeper, nicknamed Arnold back in his playing days, lost only one game during his four-games tenure at Astra Giurgiu (former Astra Ploiesti – the club will change cities this autumn) and was probably surprised to hear that he will have to pack after a second consecutive draw against a newly promoted club.
Defeated by Steaua (3-4) after a win away at Gloria Bistrita (2-1), Astra drew 0-0 vs Viitorul Constanta and, yesterday, 1-1 vs FC Severin, two disappointing, but not terrible results, which kept the team in mid-table, its’ favorite place in the standings. Stelea took part of the blame saying there’s still a lot of work to be done for this newly assembled team, a phrase misunderstood by Ioan Niculae, the club’s owner, who went on air during the same TV show and attacked his coach for branding Astra as a… newly promoted.
Niculae – who’s the wealthiest club owner in Romania, but one who must love mediocrity! – got so carried away during the interview that he went further, in a land that has nothing to do with a professional approach in football. “If Stelea thinks Astra is a newly promoted, then he should start looking for a new place to work. We’re the worst team in Liga I. That’s it, Stelea is sacked!”. If this wasn’t enough, a look at the guests of the same TV show, Fanatik, was enough for Niculae to decide on who’s the perfect man for the job! As the camera moved to Gigi Multescu – former Astra coach who helped Petrolul Ploiesti avoid relegation at the end of last season -, Astra’s owner reacted: “Look, I’ve already found the perfect man to take over! Gigi, give me a call after the show is over, you’ve already worked with me in the past and you know that I want to build a successful team!”
Unfortunately, the show ended before a live negotiation of the contract or some transfers, done to please the new coach. We’re lucky, though! The season just started in Romania and the show runs almost every weekend, from Friday to Monday evening!
The Romanian champions won 1-0 versus Slovan Liberec a week ago and has the freedom to choose a strategy for tonight’s second leg. A goal scored would probably discourage the Czechs, but it seems that Ioan Andone will try to play it safe, keeping things tight at the back and hoping for a lucky strike on a counter. With Ciprian Deac injured, an attacking winger will make room for a more defensive minded player on the left side, while Modou Sogou is expected to make a step back from the front line and leave there only Greek centre-forward Pantelis Kapetanos. With Sogou and Rafael Bastos (scored a brace during the weekend) in support of Kapetanos, CFR will need a lot of luck to surprise the hosts from open play, who should be very careful on set-plays, though.
Coming back with a draw and a goal scored in Istanbul looked like a win for FC Vaslui, but everyone’s cautious before tonight’s match. Last season’s runners-up lost 0-3 during the weekend on CFR’s ground and, although the scoreline was harsh, it should have affected the team’s morale. Hopefully, the effect will be positive and the players will start the second battle versus Fenerbahce with modesty and determination, willing to give it all just to come a step closer to the Champions League’s group stage.
Fenerbahce received 1.000 tickets in the 15.000 seats stadium from Piatra Neamt, where Vaslui has an incredible record in Europe: 6 wins and 5 draws in the 11 matches played there. The atmosphere should be hot, but nowhere near what happened a week ago, when the team responded in great fashion and Liviu Antal’s goal almost silenced the crowd. Tempted to go for a 0-0, Marius Sumudica, the coach, admitted that this could be a suicidal approach and I have to agree: the new back four needs more time to gel, the team lacks proper balance and Vaslui’s main strength was always the attack. With Antal on the right, the excellent Lucian Sanmartean on the left and Nicu Stanciu, probably the brightest talent in Liga I at the moment, behind an experienced striker like Marius Niculae, Vaslui can hurt any team, but would that be enough tonight, if the defense fails to keep it together?
- Gloria Bistrita – Gaz Metan Medias 1-1 (Predescu 51 / D. Roman 80)
- Pandurii Targu Jiu – Ceahlaul 3-1 (Radut 40, 50, Maxim 45 / Margina 59)
- CS Severin - Concordia Chiajna 0-1 (Ad. Popa 90)
- Petrolul Ploiesti – Otelul Galati 2-1 (Boudjemaa 19, 82 / Inkango 89)
- CFR Cluj – FC Vaslui 3-0 (Cadu 16 pen, Bastos 69, 83)
- Viitorul Constanta – Astra Ploiesti 0-0
- Steaua – Universitatea Cluj 5-1 (Rocha 16, 60, Rusescu 62, Tanase 71 pen, 84 / V. Dinu 81)
- Rapid – CSMS Iasi 1-0 (Goga 16)
- FC Brasov – Dinamo 2-2 (Batin 16, Buga 59 / D. Grigore 39, C. Matei 72)