- Concordia Chiajna – Ceahlaul 2-1 (Ghionea 43, Purece 57 / Cazan 44)
- Gloria Bistrita – Petrolul Ploiesti 1-1 (Laio Azeredo dos Santos 82 / Cristescu 8)
- FC Severin – Otelul Galati 1-1 (Thomas 45 / Punosevac 20)
- Universitatea Cluj – Dinamo 1-2 (V. Dinu 8 pen / Danciulescu 23 pen, Curtean 62)
- FC Brasov – FC Vaslui 2-1 (I. Popa 11, Batin 74 / Varga 64)
- Astra Giurgiu – Gaz Metan Medias 4-0 (Di Stefano 51, Budescu 54, Tembo 61, Takayuki 87)
- Pandurii Targu Jiu – CFR Cluj 2-1 (Maxim 49 pen, Radut 81 pen / Bastos 52)
- Viitorul Constanta – CSMS Iasi 1-0 (Dica 42)
- Steaua – Rapid 1-0 (Bourceanu 90+5)
It’s a shame to see FC Vaslui out of the Europa League, really! They’ve done incredibly well in a very tough group, with the likes of Lazio and Sporting Lisbon and were in a good position before the last round of games in spite of the numerous problems that Viorel Hizo had to deal with this autumn. He never had something at least close to what you’d call an ideal first eleven, playing with an improvised back four and losing for the last three games one of his best players, but he still managed to go to Zurich for the last game without having to depend on what was happening on the “Olimpico”. Of course, if everything was going to be fine in Switzerland…
It wasn’t. Cerniauskas, the goalkeeper, had to leave the field injured in the first half. The outstanding Sanmartean resisted just until after the break, in a game Hizo had in the stands three regular starters suspended: Temwanjera, Papp and Wesley. It was simply too much for a team that has a transfer ban for almost a year and a small and very unfortunate squad. They’ve lost 2-0, but I think everyone should be proud of the club’s first ever European presence and hopefully the sometimes impulsive owner, Adrian Porumboiu, will have a good look at the big picture. It definitely doesn’t make you turns your eyes away!
Surprisingly, Steaua did a lot better, in spite of a more delicate position, as the Bucharest side was also depending on a good result managed by the already qualified Schalke in Israel, not just on the win against AEK Larnaca. In front of 50.000 fans, who are starting to forget that their boycott was provoked by a club owner who’s still there and getting behind the team once again. The fans’ defeat meant the team’s victory though and it was a vital one, as the Germans played their part, inspired by Ciprian Marica who scored his first goal of the season for Schalke!
After a nervous first half, Rusescu kept his cool and converted a penalty, but AEK struck back and things were looking bad for Steaua. Pablo Brandan’s quality and experience kept the team balanced though and Ilie Stan got all his subs right, although at least one of them came a bit late. A corner and a perfect counter were converted by Stefan Nikolic, the 22 years old striker loaned from Poli Timisoara netting a brace and sending Steaua in the European spring for the 9th time in the club’s history.
I wouldn’t say they were the better team, but there’s something about this club that often comes to the rescue and offers them that little plus that makes the difference between the Romanian sparring-partners and the Romanian clubs that every once in a while make it in Europe…
Last season’s third placed team, FC Vaslui, went on a run of four defeats without a single goal scored at the beggining of the season, moving from the qualifying matches for the Champions League to the Europa League play-off in the meantime and looking very poor in Liga I.
Adrian Porumboiu, the owner, looked more reasonable than usual and yesterday the team delivered. A 3-0 away win against the newly promoted Concordia Chiajna might not have anything extraordinary about it, but it surely is a sign that this team cannot perform worse than last season, at least not against Romanian opposition. My guess is that Sparta Prague’s emissaries also returned home with some worrying notes…
If the Prague outfit still relies on experience, that’s something Vaslui doesn’t lack either, with the Brazilian duo Adailton-Wesley finally producing a performance closer to its standards. Adailton managed to provide the last pass for each of Vaslui’s goals, but the first, scored by Wesley, was a sign of perfect synchronization between the two forwards. With one of his often decisive late runs in the box, Wesley scored his 33rd goal in Liga I in 82 appearances and is only three goals shy of the all-time best foreign scorer in the Romanian league, the Albanese striker who used to play for Dinamo Bucharest, Sulejman Demollari.
It would be a mistake to get carried away, though, as Vaslui still has to wait until the 10th of September to have a transfer ban lifted and the team certainly is short on luck, with the starting pair in central defense, Paul Papp – Gabriel Canu, recently injured. The club is in such a mess that against Chiajna Viorel Hizo paired Pavol Farkas with a Romanian player who is in the squad for a few years, but was kept there as a solution for the attack, not the back four! It might have worked against Chiajna, but it could go very wrong against Sparta and Porumboiu – although he deserves credit for paying high wages and brining good foreign players in the league – has to take
part most of the blame for not having a youth center and a reserve team able to supply the first squad with a decent youngster in such difficult times…
Yes, the mighty Unirea Urziceni. The team that progressed from third division to the Champions League (with defender Epaminonda Nicu playing at all levels!) to record the highest number of points collected in the group stage by a Romanian team has officially retired from all competitions. Basically, the team that was defeating Rangers at Ibrox with an incredible 4-1 and collected eight points in a group that also featured Seville and Vfb Stuttgart, has ceased to exist. Most likey, it will not be missed, as the team that once thrived under the strict command of former Chelsea man Dan Petrescu rarely had a sold out stadium in the 20,000 souls town of Urziceni. Unirea has every chance to be remembered, though, so here, here and here are a few pieces of mine for those willing to take one more look at the club’s good old days…
I don’t think it really matters who is going to take over this team. And I’m starting to think that it won’t matter who is going to play for it, in the next few years. We’ve reached a point where the ability of the coach and the players’ skill stopped counting. They’d come handy, no doubt, but they won’t suffice. Not anymore. And we should stop looking for the Hagi that can score wonderful goals and start searching for the guys that feel the same way Gica used to feel when wearing the national team’s outfit. Or Dorinel Munteanu, currently teaching some anonymous football players from Otelul Galati that the matches and the league titles can be won through hard, honest work. Or Gica Popescu, the man who knew that he could help Romanian football only by taking the the Romanian Football Federation’s head.
Obviously, the sick body answered back at any attempt to inject some health: Hagi was destroyed as a man and a coach through the media hungry for any bad word that came out of Gigi Becali’s big mouth, Munteanu was labelled as a match fixer, after his first experiences as a coach, while Popescu was humiliated by a dirty voting system, controlled by Sandu, the man who definitely deserves his nickname: “The Godfather”.
What happened after the game versus Bosnia is hard to explain by anyone who has some common sense and can think beyond himself. After some harsh and, at times, undeserved criticism, lead by the other Becalis, Victor and “Giovani”, Razvan Lucescu slapped everyone in the face with the surprising 3-0 win and resigned, agreeing immediately to take over Rapid, making no effort to make this look like a random series of events.
Mircea Lucescu’s son had been planning this for a while, though, that’s why he called FC Brasov’s Cristian Oros for the first time to the national team. The centre-back was a 26 years old who is going to play for… Rapid next season. An accident? Steaua’s Romeo Surdu (27) also earned a call-up and he will also switch teams this summer, going from Steaua to Lucescu’s next club. But this was nothing. The real blow was Lucescu’s refusal to go with the team he had selected and to the South American tournament he had asked for, one that included an extremely important game: Romania needed a win against Paraguay. Any other result would have relegated us to the fourth pot ahead of the draw for the qualifying groups to World Cup 2014, but nobody gave a damn. From the head of the Federation to the players that “love to play for the national team”.
Mircea Sandu, the chief, Ionut Lupescu, the executive president, Razvan Lucescu, the quitter, plus “the stars” Adrian Mutu, Cristian Sapunaru, Gabriel Tamas and Razvan Rat, who didn’t put the respect for the national team above their apetite for partying during the summer, simply refused to travel to South America! For us, Romanians, who watched in disbelief the 0-2 defeat against Paraguay, this shouldn’t be remembered as the tournament that saw Ronaldo play his last game for Brazil. It should be the marked as the moment when all those who could have brought back to life the national team decided to pull the plug.
They should all go away, as simple as that. Because as long as they’re still involved, we can be sure of one thing: we’ll always be here, at home, watching the European Championships and the World Cups on tv. The good thing we’re used to it by now, anyway…
The Argentinian who, in his youth, worked as a bricklayer eight hours a day, while playing for a third division club, signed today a three and a half years long deal with Galata, the same period he spent in Cluj. A consistent player, he collected 89 matches for CFR, but scored only 3 goals in Liga I, a rather poor record for a midfielder who’s more valuable in attack than in defense. He’s been a key player nevertheless and leaves Romania after two triumphs in the league and some memorable performances, like this amazing brace (who said he doesn’t score enough?) against AS Rome:
A versatile two-footed player, he can cover several roles in midfield, can provide very good service from the flank, and is a reliable set-plays taker. Has good work-rate and will play his part in getting the ball back, but has one major problem: he keeps the ball too much, trying to find space and time for the decisive pass, often slowing down the build-up. At least once per game you’ll see him crossing from one side to the other with the ball at his feet, paralyzing his team-mates, who ran out of ideas and space in the opposition’s half. This might be seen more rarely in Istanbul, though, as I expect Culio to lose some of the freedom he enjoyed in Cluj, where he was often the only midfielder able & in charge of opening up the opposition’s defense.
The financial details of the move presented in the Romanian press: 1,5 million Euros upfront + 0,5 million Euros in the summer for CFR Cluj. In February 2009, CFR had turned down a 4 million Euros from Rubin Kazan!
- Culio, on the move to Galatasaray: “It’s a dream move for me, I’m delighted. It’s an honor to have Hagi as a coach and I’m impressed with the conditions at this great club”.
- Culio, in November 2008: “Cluj is just a station in my career, I hold an Italian passport and my dream is to be able to play in Serie A at one point”.
It’s that time of the year and Andrei Vochin, probably the only football journalist in Romania who writes and speaks just about football, starts providing the standings with the best players from Liga I, after the first half of season. And it’s no surprise to see up there, as the best keeper in Romania, Otelul’s Branko Grahovac, who managed to keep a clean sheet in half of the 18 games played so far. He is protecting the goal for the current league leaders and he was on the podium at the end of last season too, so the 27 years old, bought for 70.000 Euros exactly one year ago from Borac Cacak, has every right to feel good about this “award” and point the finger at the media that cannot stop praising the likes of Tatarusanu (Steaua – 6th place in the standings) and Pantilimon (Poli Timisoara – 11th!): “This is based on stats, not sympathies, so it means I’m better than those two. I agree, Tatarusanu is Steaua’s best player, but I cannot understand how can Pantilimon be the first choice for your national team!”.
Far from perfect (still prone to the odd incredible goal-causing error), Grahovac should thank not just Otelul’s defense, but the entire team, as Dorinel Munteanu asks the same involvement from every player in protecting the goal and getting the ball back. And wouldn’t look bad at all, if he’d show a little modesty, even if he came to Romania to make money, not friends.
Plesca (Gaz Metan – who did a great job covering the absence of Buchta, who was the best keeper in the league, last season!) and Kuciak (FC Vaslui) are just behind Grahovac in the Top 3, who shouldn’t feel too comfortable in this position if he looks to what happened with the keeper that was leading the standings last winter, Robinson Zapata, who spent on almost a year among Steaua’s reserves before leaving the country on a free transfer, not on a high horse…
Last weekend, we’ve reached the halfway mark in Liga I, but, with a schedule that makes absolutely no sense to me – two more rounds will be played before the winter break – it’s time to take a quick look back at the 17 rounds gone.
The title race
With Otelul Galati ahead of everyone else, you can imagine that things didn’t really go as planned for the usual title contenders. The Bucharest clubs failed to do better than in the past couple of years and they’re quite a long way back, with Steaua, the only Romanian club still involved in an European competition, sitting in 7th place! Reigning champions CFR Cluj are even in a worse position and, with so many clubs eager to do better in the second half, it’s hard to see them fighting for more than a place in Europe.
Although both made the same call as CFR and changed the coaches that had prepared and started this season, FC Timisoara and FC Vaslui have definitely been more inspired and successful. Timisoara remained the only undefeated club in the league, while Vaslui suffered only one defeat in the last 11 rounds (against Timisoara!), winning eight times thanks to the team’s offensive quality and a bigger dose of luck than the rest of the pack.
Basically, Otelul‘s excellent run and Gaz Metan‘s fifth place repay the clubs that had a long term project, were satisfied with a slow, but steady growth in recent years and faith in their coaches, even when things weren’t looking bright, showing that it’s not all about the money spent on an over-priced Romanian market, the foreign players offered for free and the buys from abroad based on highlights presented on DVD, usually by the respective players’ agents!
The relegation battle
The reunited “mad bunch” from Sportul Studentesc failed to deliver more than a few entertaining matches and the bottom placed club wil probably go down mainly because the owner is satisfied to see good individual performances from the players he is hoping to sell. Unlike the rest of the struggling teams, Sportul’s players will never be desperate to get a result, an attitude easy to find in clubs like Victoria Branesti or FCM Targu Mures.
If Victoria keep faith in the young coach that won promotion last year, Ilie Stan, who doesn’t look at all out of his depth in Liga I!, Targu Mures and Pandurii are in good hands, after a poor start. In fact, Targu Mures could struggle to start 2011 with Ioan Ovidiu Sabau still in charge, as he’s considered one of the best choices by CFR’s board, as the champions are looking for the right guy to take over the team, during the winter break.
As expected, FC Brasov and Unirea Urziceni, who had suffered massive losses in terms of quality players, are down there, but they’ll put up a fight until the very end, even if top players like Chipciu (Brasov) or Maftei (Unirea) are likely to leave, as well.
What to expect
As you can see, we have no mid-table clubs, with CFR secretly dreaming of a spectacular come-back in the title race and Universitatea Craiova, who, right after Piturca’s appointment, dared even to speak of the title!, only three points away from the danger zone. With everyone still very much in it, it’s impossible to predict what is going to happen in 2011, but here’s what I think it’s pretty vital to change and what’s important to stay the same at the clubs fighting to win the league.
- Do: sell the players in demand! Rapa’s market price has rocketed and will only go down from there. The title isn’t a realistic goal for Otelul and a place in Europe could be achieved without one or two of the current regular starters. Plus, Marius Stan can buy a whole new team with a million Euros!
- Don’t: dare to think of the title. The other clubs have the money and means to make sure this won’t happen!
- Do: make a call regarding the coach, as Contra should either hang up his boots and focus on the new job or leave it to someone else. It’s been going well until now, but enthusiasm and good fortune don’t last forever.
- Don’t: keep on buying from Dinamo! It has become a
suspectstrange habit in recent years…
- Do: get back the injured defenders or buy new ones – it’s vital to find some balance within the team
- Don’t: keep on playing Wesley as a central midfielder and keep on using Burdujan
as a winger.
- Do: decide if you want the title or not; offer Lazar and Bozovic new deals; buy a new striker
- Don’t: act like amateurs; allow Rui Duarte or anyone else to skip training and leave the country without severe punishment; act like amateurs!
Gaz Metan Medias
- Do: offer the excellent coach Cristi Pustai a new deal; buy another striker; go for the chance to play in Europe next season
- Don’t: further unsettle Eric de Oliveira, you’re going to lose him anyway!
- Do: sell Torje, Adrian Cristea, Alexe – they’ll bring a lot of cash; get rid of Niculae, N’Doye, Scarlatache, Bordeanu, Moti – they’ll save you a lot of money and spare further embarassment; respect Danciulescu.
- Don’t: keep on using the old methods! You’re doing serious damage to this league and will continue to play in front of just a few hundred fans!
- Do: try and keep as many of the current players
- Don’t: act upon Becali’s mood and “knowledge”; lose the fans once again
- Do: sell all those that have spent too much time in Cluj and consider themselves more than just players; decide the club’s strategy before choosing the coach
- Don’t: think about the chance to win the league
It has become official: the two players tested during the last break caused by the Euro 2012 qualifiers have signed for one of the most in-form teams in Liga I, Poli Timisoara.
Jiri Krejci is a 24 years old central defender, who came after a short and unsuccessful spell in Greece, with Iraklis, while the Brazilian Carlos Rafael Rocha is a 21 years old left sided player, at his first attempt to impress in Europe. If Krejci will have to fight for his place in the squad, as Poli can rely on the experienced duo Burca-Cisovsky and has also involved as much as possible the promising Luchin and Mera in the past couple of season, Rafael is a much needed backup for Timisoara’s only natural left back, Laszlo Sepsi.
Interesting fact: Rafael was recommended by Poli’s Brazilian wing-back Helder, who is playing on loan from Nancy and has impressed with his outstanding pace and appetite for attacking football, and Timisoara’s coach Cosmin Contra says he was convinced by the left back’s skill, pace and ability to read the game.
Desperate to keep a clean sheet. Trained to destroy, not to build. Hoping for a lucky counter or a well taken free kick. This is Romania. At any level. From the senior national team to the Under 0. We have it in our genes and we’re not making the smallest effort to change our mentality. And you can see it at club level. Where we’re defending. Destroying. Hoping for the counter-attacks that bring once in a lifetime 2-0 wins on Olimpico. And we still wonder why we have slim chances to see Romania at a final tournament in this lifetime…
For those not very familiar with the team in yellow, the weekend was looking promising on Friday evening, when Romania faced England, in front of a packed stadium in Norwich. Sandoi’s eleven that featured one keeper, five natural defenders and five natural midfielders, was trying to switch from a 4-5-1 to a 4-3-3, as the team got hold of possession, being probably the first in the world to try and use three forwards, without having at least one on the field! Read more…