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 He has been replaced by Israeli coach Ronny Levy who will hope to carry on where Petrescu left off with the club leading the way domestically.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 Two

Posted in European Football by peterbein on December 19, 2009
BATE Borisov fans

Fans of BATE Borisov taunt their opponents Everton on Matchday 2. Everton, however, had the last laugh winning 2-1.

In the second half of our UEFA Europa League group stage round-up “Stoppage Time” looks at the groups that concluded on Thursday, December 17th:

GROUP A (RSC ANDERLECHT, AJAX AMSTERDAM, DINAMO ZAGREB, FC TIMISOARA)

Blessed with years of European experience and tradition, Benelux neighbours Ajax Amsterdam and RSC Anderlecht of Brussels easily negotiated their way through this group. Their Matchday 6 match in Amsterdam still had some importance, though, as Anderlecht’s 3-1 win meant that they topped the group on account of a better head-to-head record over their Dutch challengers, both teams finishing on eleven points. Dinamo Zagreb were optimistic of further progress earlier in the competition as they had three points from two matches but they failed to build on their good start. Champions League Play-Off losers FC Timisoara scored a respectable five points on their maiden Europa League campaign but still finished fourth in the group table.

GROUP B (VALENCIA CF, LILLE, GENOA FC, SLAVIA PRAGUE)

Valencia secured qualification and the top spot on Matchday 6. They went into their game away at Genoa needing only a point to be certain of going through to the last 32 whilst hosts Genoa needed all three points to finish at least second. With the game tied at 1-1 in stoppage time, David Villa was gifted the ball from Genoa goalkeeper Alessio Scarpi to secure the victory in the 94th mnute. Elsewhere Lille’s 3-1 win at home to Slavia Prague ensured that they finished second, two points behind the leaders. Slavia, who have dominated the Czech league in the last two seasons, have been struggling domestically this season and this form was transferred into Europe as they remained without a victory after six games.

GROUP C (HAPOEL TEL AVIV, HAMBURGER SV, GLASGOW CELTIC, RAPID VIENNA)

Israeli side Hapoel were the surprise winners of this group finishing two points ahead of German giants Hamburg. Their Matchday 6 encounter in Tel Aviv ended as a 1-0 win for the hosts and it was they who leapfrogged “HSV” into first place. The biggest disappointment of the group were Scottish club Celtic who were unable to re-create their many great European nights under new coach Tony Mowbray. Among the highlights of the group were the encounters involving Celtic and Austrians Rapid Vienna, whose little known rivalry dates back to a controversial European Cup Winners’ Cup second round match in 1984-85. Both games ended drawn but the Matchday 6 encounter would’ve felt like a win for the Glasgow giants as they came back from 3-0 down after 18 minutes to draw 3-3 with virtually the last kick of the game and demote their Austrian hosts to last place.

GROUP G (RED BULL SALZBURG, VILLARREAL CF, SS LAZIO, LEVSKI SOFIA)

The only team who finished their campaign with a 100% record was Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg suggesting that they could be a good outside bet to go far in the competition. Huub Stevens’ men beat all challengers home and away to finish a clear nine points ahead of second place Villarreal. Italian capital side Lazio frustrated their followers as they could only win two of their six games and finished three points behind the little Spanish village team. Bulgarians Levski Sofia fared little better than their local rivals CSKA (see previous blog) finishing bottom with three points.

GROUP H (FENERBAHCE, FC TWENTE ENSCHEDE, STEAUA BUCHAREST, FC SHERIFF TIRASPOL)

Steve McClaren’s FC Twente were looking comfortable after two games but then nearly blew their qualifications chances. After Turkish side Fenerbahce secured the leadership of the group, FC Twente were relying on them to do them a favour on Matchday 6. Twente needed a win away at 1986 European champions Steaua Bucharest but could only manage a 1-1 draw in very cold, frosty conditions played in front of a sparse crowd. However the surprise team FC Sheriff from Moldova had to win against the already-qualified “Fener” to grab the second spot but the Turkish team did McClaren’s a favour beating the Moldovans 1-0.

GROUP I (SL BENFICA, EVERTON FC, BATE BORISOV, AEK ATHENS)

No surprises in group I were Benfica and Everton went through to the Round of 32 with one match to spare. Benfica, in particular, showed their class in their two matches with nearest challengers Everton scoring seven goals without reply in their two games (5-0 at home and 2-0 away). The Merseysiders, however, did progress thanks to three wins out of four against their eastern European opponents, the only defeat coming on Matchday 6 at home to Belarussian champions BATE Borisov but Everton were already through to the next round and played a very young team on the night. Benfica finished top with 15 points (only a shock defeat away at a very poor AEK Athens denied them a 100% record), Everton scored nine points, BATE avoided the wooden spoon scoring seven points compared to AEK’s four points.