CFR Cluj - Poli 2:2 (2:1)

Sometimes, it's actually a great experience to watch football, even if you're not intimately involved with any of the combatants. Judging by people's reactions, Sunday's match was exactly this kind of game.

Dusan Uhrin Jr. seems to have managed to turn around a number of struggling players and - moreover - make them all function as an ensemble, all this in just two months time. Surely, there is still progress to be made, especially concerning the defensive aspects of the game, where faults have caused us to concede easy goals, but the team's performance at this point are surely grounds for optimism.

The match against the most important non-Bucharest squad of the day - CFR Cluj - was always going to be an extremely difficult one to win. Yet, Poli's first half performance yielded good football, in terms of possession and tactical display, only to be overcome by two defensive errors. Just a bit over two minutes into the game, Semedo easily disposes of Dancia and his well placed finish lead to the first goal of the night. Not the best of starts for Poli, that's for sure. But Uhrin's players didn't let the early goal affect them, as just one minute later Bucur found himself in an excellent position, his shot however was easy prey for Stancioiu. Poli drew level in the 13th minute, as Karamyan's free-kick found Plesan in the box, who sent a good header past Stancioiu, into the post, the ball tumbling into goal. The next twenty minutes were well controlled by the white-purple team, yet just after a debatable refused penalty on Plesan, CFR managed to score again, at their just second shot on goal of the match: Trica wriggled around at the edge of the box and his shot hit the post before going in - impossible save. One minute before half-time, Bucur's pass found Ganea one-on-one against the goalie, but his shot was saved - while the linesman erroneously signalled off-side.
The second half, while less exciting in terms of performance, was a truly nail-biting experience. McKain was sent off in the 63rd minute, after a second bookable offense, and things were looking up on our side. Yet, just a minute later, Vrsic sent a free-kick towards Plesan, whose header found the goal anew, thus Poli pulling back with one men less on the pitch! The minutes to come weren't going to be easy and it could've all been over, when Didi's rather impressive plunge in the depths of the penalty area made the referee point to the spot. The same Didi took the penalty, but Popa managed to save the shot with his legs, before Canu cleared the ball! While the defensive effort was strengthened when Uhrin sent Srhoj on the pitch, it would've all been in vain, if lady luck hadn't shined on Poli once more, in the last minute of the match. Gabriel Muresan's free-kick was barely saved by Popa, but the ball bounced to Didi, whose shot from just a few meters away was yet again saved by Sunday's best-man performer, Marius Popa! The final whistle came both as a relief and a just reward, after an excellent match which emphasized once more that the game of football exists outside of Bucharest and it should not be ignored or dismissed as irrelevant.

President Marian Iancu's decision to sell Mihaita Plesan to Steaua, just hours after he had scored two essential goals, was - to say the least - bizzare. Although the team is well covered in the midfield, strengthening an opponent with a first-team player never seems like a justifiably wise decision, especially considering that there was little financial gain to be made.

Nonetheless, the squad should be capable of absorbing this departure, even though it probably should have taken place under different circumstances. If rumors are true, Uhrin is trying to get another forward for the money received on Plesan, but it remains to be seen whether Mr. Iancu has the willingness to provide it. Sometimes I feel forced to think that performance is not the main objective in this "long-term project" run by Marian Iancu.

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