Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Eastern Europe: last two champions face-off in Romania

Posted in European Football by peterbein on February 19, 2010
Dan Petrescu

Dan Petrescu took Unirea Urziceni to their maiden Romanian championship last season but has now departed for Russian club FC Kuban Krasnodar.

The winter break comes to an end in Romania this weekend. Liga 1 resumes with a very competitive championship table showing four points separating the top six teams and a top of the table clash between the top two teams Unirea Urziceni and CFR Cluj-Napoca, who are the two most recent championship winning sides with the former defending the title they won last season and the latter winning their maiden title in 2007-08. Should either or both of these teams drop points then record champions Steaua Bucharest are waiting to pounce and anyone from FC Timişoara, Rapid Bucharest or FC Vaslui can improve their prospects of a title challenge with victories against teams in the lower half of the table.

The big news in Romanian football over the winter break was the surprise resignation of Dan Petrescu from champions Unirea Urziceni in order to take over at Russian First League (second-tier) team FC Kuban Krasnodar. After guiding the club from south-east Romania to their maiden title in the 2008-09 season he led FC Unirea to third place in their UEFA Champions League group this season finishing behind Sevilla CF and VfB Stuttgart but ahead of Glasgow Rangers and ensured that they had European football after Christmas in the UEFA Europa League. He has been replaced by Israeli coach Ronny Levy who will hope to carry on where Petrescu left off with the club leading the way domestically.

However FC Unirea’s first match after the winter pause takes place on Monday against CFR Cluj-Napoca, the team who beat them in the 2008 Romanian Cup final. In the opening match of the 2009-10 season CFR Cluj-Napoca, famous for being resident in the Transylvania region, beat the defending league champions 2-0, this victory coming just a week after CFR Cluj had beaten FC Unirea in the Romanian Super Cup on penalties. Therefore FC Unirea will have a score to settle and will want to give their new coach a maiden victory especially as they narrowly lost to Liverpool FC 1-0 in the UEFA Europa League last night.

In the other important games in Liga 1 third-place Steaua Bucharest plays at home to bottom ranked team Ceahlaul Piatra Niamt in a game which the Militarii (Army Men) are easily expected to win in front of a partisan crowd. Should the top two draw in their encounter on Monday then Steaua could find themselves all alone at the top of the table. However should Steaua do the unthinkable and drop points themselves then there will be three other teams who harbour hopes of starting a run which could land them the championship. Fourth-place FC Timişoara, who were league runners-up last season, plays against second-bottom (17th place) Gloria Bastrita, fifth-place Rapid Bucharest plays against 13th place Politechnica Iasi and sixth-place FC Vaslui plays Gaz Metan Medias, who lie in tenth place. Even FC Brasov and Dinamo Bucharest, who occupy the seventh and eighth spots in the table, may have hope of at least finishing second in the league as they are both just seven points from the top three. A UEFA Champions League qualifying stage spot goes the team who finishes second in Romania’s Liga 1 with the champions gaining automatic qualification so there is everything to play for in one of the tightest championships for many a year.

ROMANIA’S TOP EIGHT

1. Unirea Urziceni Played 17/ Points 34/ Goal Difference +13

2. CFR Cluj-Napoca 17/34/+12

3. Steaua Bucharest 17/34/+11

4. FC Timişoara 17/31/+17

5. Rapid Bucharest 17/31/+15

6. FC Vaslui 17/30/+6

7. FC Brasov 17/27/+8

8. Dinamo Bucharest 17/27/+7

UEFA Europa League Groups Round-Up: Part One

Posted in European Football by peterbein on December 17, 2009
Shakhtar Donetsk

Shakhtar Donetsk hope to be in Hamburg to defend the trophy they won in May

The final matches of the group stage have been taking place in the UEFA Europa League, the final of which will be played in Hamburg on May 12th, 2010. Having looked at the Champions League last week, Stoppage Time rounds up the twelve groups in the Europa League, starting with the six groups that concluded on Wednesday, December 16th:

GROUP D (SPORTING LISBON, HERTHA BERLIN, HEERENVEEN, FK VENTSPILS)

This was an easy group for Sporting having qualified by Matchday 5 for the Round of 32. Second spot was up for grabs on Matchday 6 and despite Heerenveen’s best efforts at home to Ventspils (winning 5-0) they were ousted by German side Hertha Berlin whose European form was in stark contrast to their dreadful domestic form. Hertha’s 1-0 win over Sporting on the last day meant that they finished on ten points in second place (one point behind Sporting) whilst Heerenveen settled for third and Latvian champions FK Ventspils were unlucky not to gain more points in the tournament and finished bottom of the group.

GROUP E (AS ROMA, FULHAM FC, FC BASLE, CSKA SOFIA)

Fulham were made to work for their place in the last 32 but Roy Hodgson’s men secured qualification in the best way possible beating nearest challengers FC Basle 3-2 away to clinch the second spot behind Roma who led the group on 13 points, two ahead of Fulham who, in turn, finished two ahead of Basle. CSKA Sofia proved to be the whipping boys of the group after they finished the campaign with one point gained on Matchday 1 in a home draw against Fulham.

GROUP F (GALATASARAY, PANATHINAIKOS, DINAMO BUCHAREST, STURM GRAZ)

Galatasaray and Panathinaikos easily qualified for the next stage. Turkish giants “Gala”, UEFA Cup winners in 2000, finished one point clear of their Greek rivals but there was nothing for the Athens based club to fear as they ended the group stage six points in front of Dinamo Bucharest. Dinamo secure third place after they got the better of Austrian side from Graz, the teams finishing on six and four points respectively.

GROUP J (SHAKHTAR DONETSK, CLUB BRUGGE, TOULOUSE, PARTIZAN BELGRADE)

Shakhtar Donetsk, the last ever UEFA Cup winners in 2009, are hoping to defend the trophy under its current guise of the Europa League. The Ukrainians won the group in dominant fashion having qualified by Matchday 4. In the end Club Brugge finished second as they defeated nearest challengers Toulouse 1-0 on Matchday 6 to clinch a spot in the Round of 32. Alas the French side had more than further progress in the competition to mourn as one of their fans, Brice Taton, was tragically killed after being attacked by Partizan supporters in Belgrade ahead of their match on September 17th.

GROUP K (PSV EINDHOVEN, SPARTA PRAGUE, FC COPENHAGEN, CFR CLUJ)

PSV Eindhoven’s European experience was evident in Group K as they topped the table with 14 points. The second place went down to the wire as Sparta Prague played Danish champions FC Copenhagen in a winner takes all encounter on Matchday 6. Two Dame N’Doye goals and a Jesper Gronkjaer penalty secured the Danes a place in the last 32. Sparta finished third on seven points, three points behind FC Copenhagen, whilst CFR Cluj only won once in six games and finished bottom.

GROUP L (WERDER BREMEN, ATHLETIC BILBAO, NACIONAL MADEIRA, AUSTRIA VIENNA)

Last season’s UEFA Cup losing finalists Werder Bremen made easy work of their group only dropping two points out of eighteen (in a 2-2 draw against Austria Vienna on Matchday 3). Athletic Bilbao’s campaign also went well finishing six points behind Werder and five ahead of Portuguese side Nacional. Austria Vienna ended up with the wooden spoon with two points from six games all to show for their efforts.