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5 Romanian clubs, 1 step away from the Europa League group stage

August 25, 2011 Leave a comment

It all went surprisingly well in the first leg. Away wins, wins to nil at home, goals scored away by the only two out of five teams defeated last Thursday. It all went too well, actually, so let’s take a look at what could go wrong in tonight’s matches…

Dinamo Bucuresti – Vorskla Poltava (1-2)
The Red Dogs were unfortunate to receive a second goal in the 89th minute, but they couldn’t hold on anymore after Grigore’s dismissal for a second yellow card, in the 65th minute. Besides the centre-back, another two important players will be missing through suspension, striker Marius Niculae, who has been in terrific form this season, and promising winger Marius Alexe. With Gabriel Torje already thinking about his move to Udinese, it might be tougher than the 10.000 fans are probably expecting.

Gaz Metan Medias – Austria Vienna (1-3)

The away goal is important, but this small team needs to produce another miracle, after sending out on penalties Mainz, in the previous round. Florin Bratu and Thaer Bawab both scored on Monday in a perfect 3-0 win against newly promoted Vointa Sibiu, with winger Ciprian Petre confirming my expectations and providing two assists in that game. The problem is that Medias scored only after a set play, with Vointa easily defending in a first half that so no clear cut chances and no goals. Although Cristi Pustai rested team captain Todea, he lost Georgian defender Akaky through injury, who joins attacking midfielders Parvulescu, Dudita and Muntean on the sidelines…

CSKA Sofia – Steaua Bucuresti (0-2)

After a very open game in the first leg, in which the Bulgarian side missed a huge chance to score a vital away goal through… Romanian forward Ianis Zicu, I expect a very open match in Sofia. And looking how Steaua desperately defended at times last Thursday, this could easily go wrong, in spite of what looks like a perfect score. Ronny Levy has problems at right back, where he lost both Gabriel Matei and Novak Martinovic, so will have to improvise with Banel Nicolita, whom lots of managers consider better in this role. But he is a good coach, with a good possession & attacking philosophy and a single goal should be enough to temper and eliminate the home side.

Rapid Bucuresti – Slask Wroclaw (3-1)

I know Slask is doing great in Ekstraklassa, but they have been totally outplayed in the first leg, by a quicker, more aggressive and better organized team. Can’t see what could go wrong here, with Rapid free of injuries and suspensions, a team that won a few days ago in the league even without several first team players that should be fresh and in top form for tonight’s game.

Sparta Prague – FC Vaslui (0-2)

This result came as a huge surprise to me, but FC Vaslui deserves full credit for taking advantage of a terrible day from Sparta, who couldn’t take advantage of the home side’s improvised first eleven. Lucian Sanmartean was absolutely outstanding on the day, tormenting Sparta’s defense with his dribbling ability and vision in the last third and today he will be joined upfront by another 2 key players for Vaslui: Wesley and Adailton! So, scoring an away goal is definitely on the cards, as Sparta will have no choice, but to take chances and push forward, and it would be a nice reward for Vaslui’s owner, who has been spending a lot of cash to constantly improve the team and always push for a higher position in the league. The Romanian club will remain vulnerable at the back, where 21 years old striker Ionut Balaur should start his fourth game as a central defender, so Sparta can find a way back in this, by scoring one and hoping that the pressure in the final minutes will be too much for a team without European experience and unable to be as solid at it can be in defense.

Europa League’s group stage: who’s going to make it?

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

With five team knocking at the door this season and some average opposition in most of the cases, Romanian football hopes to grab this chance by the throat and try another good season in Europe, where it can still send directly into the group stage of the Champions League the champion club, even its name is Otelul Galati.

Steaua Bucharest – CSKA Sofia

The game will be played in Cluj, as Steaua has been forced to abandon their stadium in Bucharest and, in spite of playing tonight in front of a lot of fans, they will look once again as if they’re playing away from home. The two clubs fought all summer for the signature of Brazilian forward Ribeiro Moraes, who decided in the end to play for CSKA, while the Bulgarians’ main threat is considered Liga I’s top scorer from last season, Ianis Zicu.

Steaua will field a decent starting eleven, but Levy still has a lot of work to do to get this team going, as it badly misses creative players in midfield, but relies on two quick forwards, Tatu and Mihai Costea, to make the difference.

Slask Wroclaw – Rapid Bucharest

During the weekend, Rapid deployed a surprising 4-4-2 against newly promoted Petrolul, a match which they struggled to win (1-0, goals scored in the 87th minute), but this might have been part of a strategy to deceive the Polish club. Razvan Lucescu knows how to approach such games and he was there when Rapid managed the club’s best ever performance in an European competition. I expect a return to a 4-3-3 with Romeo Surdu and Ciprian Deac on the flanks, a midfield trio formed by Iulian Apostol, Dan Alexa and Ovidiu Herea, but the player that has impressed the most is Marcos Antonio, the rock solid Brazilian centre-back, who will certainly play a big part especially in this first leg.

Vorskla Poltava – Dinamo Bucharest

Dinamo hasn’t changed under Liviu Ciobotariu and, if this team stands a chance to get a result, than the attacking line must produce at least a couple of goals. It has worked so far, but the away game versus NK Varazdin could have gone wrong in a lot of delicate moments. Dinamo cannot use the promising Marius Alexe on the left wing – accused by fans that he’s not playing as good as he can since Chelsea added his name on what is probably a very long shortlist – and will move there the experienced Catalin Munteanu. It might be good for him, as Munteanu has an excellent service and the veteran Ionel Danciulesc plus Dinamo’s captain Marius Niculae could use some quality balls upfront. All eyes will be once again on the dynamic little right winger Gabriel Torje, who catches the eye, but could also “catch a black eye” if he keeps playing by himself every single time  he gets a pass in a good position.

FC Vaslui – Sparta Prague

Vaslui’s in a mess. They have finally scored, after four consecutive matches in which they had failed, but the win against newly promoted Concordia Chiajna has a cost: the Brazilian Adailton, who provided 3 assists in the 3-0 away success, is now injured and his name is added on a very long list. Team captain Wesley is suspended for this game, but coach Viorel Hizo has a depleated team, with central defenders Papp, Canu, Milanov and Gladstone injured, plus midfielders Pavlovic and Milisavljevic transfer listed and recently excluded from the team.

Austria Vienna – Gaz Metan Medias

Gaz Metan managed to survive in the double against Mainz, going through on penalties, but they will also face Austria Vienna against several first team players. In fact, Cristi Pustai has been forced to give up  the impressive trio of supporting players for the lone striker, as Parvulescu and Munteanu are out injured and Brazilian key attacking midfielder and prolific scorer Eric de Oliveira is on the verge of switching clubs before the transfer window closes. It will all come down to Gaz Metan’s ability to defend, which can look average at times, and their luck to score at least once in tonight’s encounter, when they should be more dangerous on set-plays than on counter-attacks.

Adailton assists FC Vaslui’s first win of the season

August 14, 2011 Leave a comment

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…

Two rounds to go, two contenders left

FC Vaslui’s title hopes suffered a blow yesterday, when Adrian Porumboiu’s club dropped two points against Astra Ploiesti and lost contact with the first two teams, FC Timisoara and Otelul Galati.

Timisoara had no problems in putting three past Unirea Urziceni, while Otelul’s controversial win away at Victoria Branesti ignited a huge scandal, with the skipper Gabriel Paraschiv scoring from an offside position a late winner to grab all the points and stay on top of the league, with two rounds left to play.

Vaslui ends another season without a trophy and it’s a delicate moment for the club’s ambitious owner sponsor, who had hopes as high as the wages paid to important players like the Brazilian pair Wesley – Adailton or Slovakian goalie, Dusan Kuciak.

Porumboiu and Timisoara’s owner, Marian Iancu, launched an attack not just towards Otelul’s experienced president, Marius Stan, but also towards “dark forces” they have failed to identify.

“They’re trying to show us that anyone but us could win this league”, stated the two, but this is a theory they too have to struggle to understand. The fact is that we’re close to a poor season, marked by the mediocrity of the title challengers and the numerous decisive mistakes made by the referees thoughout a year to forget that will be followed by yet another set of disappointments in Europe.

With two rounds to go, it’s going to be either Otelul Galati or FC Timisoara, as the two teams will meet ,on Sunday evening, on the leaders’ turf in what looks like the league’s Final. Unfortunately, before thinking of a potential match winner within the two teams, it’s wise to wait and hear the referees’ names. It might be there, among the officials…

Three contenders, three rounds to go!

With the big shots from Bucharest trying to book a place in Europa League, after yet another disappointing season, Otelul Galati, FC Timisoara and FC Vaslui have only three points between them, with three rounds left to play, in Liga I.

Otelul grabbed three vital points against Universitatea Craiova, on Thursday evening, taking full advantage of the draw between FC Vaslui and FC Timisoara, and regained the top spot, looking like the favorite not just because of it, but also thanks to the easiest schedule.

Next up for Dorinel Munteanu’s men is Victoria Branesti, an already relegated team, and a win will ensure a lead and the possibility of a draw in the following game, which could be a title decider, as Otelul will host FC Timisoara.

The Viola also have the title in the hands, even if they’re in second place now, three wins out of three being a guarantee for a title that will repay years of some important investments and also reward the always excellent support offered by a beautiful and passionate city like Timisoara.

For FC Vaslui, who badly needed a win against FC Timisoara on Wednesday, but Dorin Goga’s goal cancelled their lucky one goal advantage, have small chances to finish first, in spite of  schedule that would allow them to get maximum points.

Otelul’s schedule:

  • Victoria Branesti – away
  • FC Timisoara – at home
  • Astra Ploiesti – away

FC Timisoara’s schedule:

  • Unirea Urziceni – at home
  • Otelul Galati – away
  • Dinamo – at home

FC Vaslui’s schedule:

  • Astra Ploiesti – away
  • Sportul Studentesc – at home
  • Pandurii Targu Jiu – away

Liga I resumes: a look at the realistic title contenders

February 25, 2011 Leave a comment

…and we’re off! We’re strating with a game decided even before it took place, but we’re off! It has been an interesting winter in Romania, with some important moves on the market. Steaua and CFR Cluj cashed-in big time on their most promising players, Bogdan Stancu and Lacina Traore, with another very good forward by Liga I standards, Ribeiro Moraes, leaving Gloria Bistrita and the country. Even though we haven’t seen any outstanding signings, this should be a very interesting second half of season, with the first division perfectly divided in two categories: title contenders (yes, CFR Cluj, currently in 8th place, still hope to win the league!) and relegation candidates. We have no mid-table teams, a category that should be defined during next month, when we’ll see who had either their hopes or fears killed in the first couple of matches.

Can Otelul hold on and detonate another bomb, just like Unirea Urziceni did two years ago?

Otelul Galati

Otelul kept all the players, which might look good and show ambition, but this was the perfect moment to profit from the rise of Cornel Rapa, the 21 years old right back who’s now an option for the senior national team. They might not get the best price in the summer, unless the excellent physical preparation and tactical discipline from the first half of season will deliver until the end. The league leaders have been discrete as always on the market, signing a second division player and a rather unknown Serbian centre-forward, Bratislav Paunosevac, who could make an impact considering that Otelul lacked options upfront last year. And also generate some profit from a future sale – a trademark buy for the experienced president, Marius Stan. Although they managed to get three points already, Dorinel Munteanu’s men are expected to struggle, with all the stronger clubs taking measures, which translates into extremely motivated opposition in every single game and some dodgy refereeing when it matters. Would be a real surprise to see them holding on until the end…

Poli Timisoara

Undefeated in 18 matches, The Viola will start losing games, as Dusan Uhrin Jr., who returns as a coach, for the fans’ delight, has been asked to take a different approach – try to go for wins and push for a league title that’s in reach.  As usual, Timisoara signed a lot of players, releasing the always over-rated Hristu Chiacu and loaning to Urziceni Ioan Mera, a centre-back that would have had little chances to feature, considering the competition. The experienced Sorin Ghionea was signed on a free transfer, with Nikola Ignijatevic coming from Red Star Belgrade to cover for Sepsi’s imminent departure. Tosaint Ricketts is expected to add pace upfront, something badly missed after Timisoara sold Gigel Bucur to Kuban Krasnodar more than a year ago. This is a solid team all over the pitch and a real title contender, although they miss the players and the coach who can cope with a level of pressure that will increase with every round.

FC Vaslui

Looking at the club’s activity on the market, you might get the wrong idea. The club released Burdujan (forward), Pancu (attacking midfielder), Hugo Luz (left back), Haisan (goalkeeper) and punished severely the Brazilian Gerlem (left midfielder), all of them useful players, who could have helped at least as reliable backup solutions, and couldn’t sign a single name, given the transfer ban that will expire only in June 2011. Still, the old dog Viorel Hizo should be satisfied both in terms of quantity and quality, while these departures could make those who stayed and are a bit more confident about their places in the team to act more responsible and focus on delivering what would be an outstanding and, given the recent investment, a deserved achievement for Porumboiu’s club.

Rapid Bucuresti

In some games, they have played excellent football, looking very strong especially at home, where they simply lay siege on the visiting teams and eventually break them, with the support of one of the hottest crowds in the league. Unfortunately for them, the away form remains a problem at Rapid, no matter the quality of the team or the name of the coach, it has to be down to mentality. I was surprised to see that the club didn’t adress the squad’s biggest problem: adding another quality striker, as the Brazilian Cassio delivers only at home and the talented Sburlea’s too inconsistent and yet to turn into a poacher. They’ve released a few players – Cesinha could have turned some games around! – and signed three players that should add even more strength and quality in defense (the Bugarian international Vidanov) and midfield (the Brazilian Olberdam and the fans’ favorite player, Daniel Pancu). They’re very strong, but the 10 points gap demands from Rapid exactly what they’ve missed in the first half of season: consistency.

Transfer analysis: FC Vaslui

December 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Adrian Porumboiu wanted to make this Vaslui’s year and went on a spending spree that should have added more quality to an already solid roster, offered to the former Real Madrid coach, Ramon Lopez Caro. A few of the signings were requested by the Spaniard and what followed went on to prove that it’s not the wisest thing to do, with Lopez Caro getting the sack after a poor start and a huge scandal. Rodolfo Bodipo was packed and sent back home immediately, David Rivas never featured again and David Campano doesn’t feel too comfortable either…

Best transfer Read more…

Foreign coaches at a sacking, err, turning point in their Romanian adventures

September 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Andrea Mandorlini (CFR Cluj), Lopez Caro (FC Vaslui), Vladimir Petrovic (FC Timisoara). Big names, high wages, scary anti-sacking clauses. What’s to be done once they get their teams into deep trouble? Well, Timisoara’s Marian Iancu always liked to look tough in the media, CFR’s Arpad Paszkany plays the old “Backing the coach” trick and looks very supportive (until he finds a replacement), while FC Vaslui’s Adrian Porumboiu has no other option than to beg the former Real Madrid to leave the team without asking for more than a couple of hundred thousand Euros. Not a good moment to be in charge of a club, right?

Mandorlini and Cadu, trying to understand each other

Mandorlini, saved by last season’s trophies. But not for long…

CFR won the league and the Romanian Cup with him on the bench, but the team rarely offered convincing displays, struggling to adjust to a 4-3-3 that looked good on paper, but poor on the pitch. With the whole summer ahead of him and the chance to create a roster according to his plans, Mandorlini failed once again to impose his ideas. Important changes took place in the team, but CFR kept on switching between a 4-3-3 and a 4-3-1-2, in the first rounds that left the impression that Mandorlini needed a few more friendly matches, in order to make the team click. Six rounds gone and the champions are in mid-table, with the humiliating 0-3 defeat suffered against a newly promoted, Sportul Studentesc, still hurting a lot of egos in Cluj. Read more…

Round 5 – results, scorers, standings and highlights!

August 24, 2010 2 comments
  • Lacina Traore showing why he's not worth millions just yet. Photo by gds.ro

    The round kicked-off with a surprise just for those who thought that everything’s fine at the champion club. Sportul exploited the visitiors’ arrogance and lack of determination, putting three past Nuno Claro, but could not end Mandorlini’s contract, well defended by a clause of 800.000 Euros. Bad news for the numerous players who thought that this was the way to get rid of their coach, starting with Lacina Traore, who finished an embarrassing display with a criminal attack that killed any hope of a fightback conducted by the once out-of-favor Sixto Peralta. Read more…

Cerniauskas has two decisive errors in two games. And I had warned Lopez Caro…

August 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Well, you could click here and see for yourselves, but, if you’re in a hurry, you could also take my following words for it: Liability: Vytautas Cerniauskas – if he plays right away. The young goalie has just arrived, but, given the conflict between the club and first choice keeper Dusan Kuciak, he might  get soon the chance to prove himself and I doubt that a second Arlauskis could arrive to Liga I so soon and make a similar impact. If I’d be in Caro’s place I would trust Haisan, who stepped in well even last season and should offer time and guidance to Cerniauskas, as well.”

Ok, enough bragging, I certainly don’t like it, but I’ve read that sometimes it does help. The fact is that FC Vaslui has just one point after two rounds (the 2-0 defeat against Rapid was followed by a 1-1 that’s a lot more difficult to digest, given the fact that Lopez Caro’s men were playing at home and against FCM Targu Mures, a newly promoted team) and Vytautas Cerniauskas has to take a part of the blame. Sorry, two parts, as he was at fault both for Rapid‘s and FCM‘s openers, making it very difficult for his team to come back in the game.

The Lithuanian U21 goalie may be promising, but so far I’ve seen, besides a justified fear to leave the goal-line, a worrying lack of agility. Size does matter, but it’s never enough! And Caro already started to look for solutions, the first press reports linking FC Vaslui with Steaua’s out of favor keeper, Robinson Zapata, while today there were stories referring to Kuciak’s possible return to the first team. Nothing about Vaslui’s chances to get back the five points lost in the first two rounds, though…

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