Finally, a grand victory against a more than matching opponent! Even more importantly, it gives us all reasons to look forward to the future and keeps everyone's hopes for a podium finish alive.
Leaders CFR Cluj had obviously come to Timisoara to win and they didn't shy away from showing it: Panin came close to scoring early on, Fabbiani then had his cross well blocked by Canu, Trica hit the post from a free-kick and CFR's Argentinian striker came close again, when Popa managed to save his well placed shot. Poli had only managed to match their adversaries in terms of control, but the scoring opportunities were lacking. Karamyan tried many crosses from decent set pieces, but most of them were poor and didn't find their targets, while Torje sent two long shots at goal, with no effect on the scoreline however.
The second half started in a more decent manner, as Poli got closer to scoring. Rusic and Canu didn't manage to convert two corner kicks, as CFR's goalie Nuno Claro was well placed. CFR were still dangerous, but young Pantilimon - who replaced Marius Popa at half time, injured - made two good saves in very dangerous situations. Fact is though, that while Poli had levelled the match in terms of quality, it didn't really seem as if they'd score, mainly because the midfield lacked creativity. But then, in the last five minutes, Marian Aliuta was sent on the pitch instead of Abiodun, the ex-Iraklis playmaker being the decisive force in the match: he received a ball on the right flank, stormed towards the centre, dribbling three CFR players on the way, and then smashed the ball diagonally, above Nuno Claro, but low enough to find the goal and make it 1:0! The derby ended with this score, CFR have lost their first match of the season in the last match of the year.
The excellent defensive performance of Luchin, Canu, McKain and even Latovlevici was key to Poli's win today. Of the foreigners. Abiodun did well in defense, but contributed too little in creating scoring opportunities; Artiom Karamyan wasn't particularly in form; Rusic was quite elusive as well, sending no shots at goal whatsoever. Dusan Uhrin's tactical decisions have to be praised too, as he did not make any compromises in choosing his first eleven and was extremely inspired in sending Aliuta on the pitch when it really mattered.
So now it's all about to president Iancu and his investments to ensure Mr. Uhrin's success in the rest of the season. It will certainly be an interesting winter break.
Poli: Popa (6,5) - Latovlevici (5,5), McKain (6), Canu (6,5), Luchin (6,5) - Karamyan (5,5), Alexa (6,5), Abiodun (6), Stancu (5,5) - Torje (5,5), Rusic (5) with Pantilimon (6,5), Aliuta and Cristea coming on for Popa, Abiodun and Torje.
You can watch the goal here and other match highlights here.